March 25, 2020

Princeton Nursery School Reaches Out, and the Community Responds

FOOD SECURITY: Princeton Nursery School is making sure its young students, who get two meals and a snack at school each day, don’t go hungry during the coronavirus outbreak. 

By Anne Levin

After Princeton Nursery School closed its doors on March 16 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), staff and supporters knew they had to spring into action. The 91-year-old preschool on Leigh Avenue provides its young students with two daily meals and a snack. In many cases, their families fall below the federal poverty line, making those meals essential.

The day the school closed, students were sent home with ShopRite gift cards and two weeks’ worth of food provided by Send Hunger Packing Princeton. But Rose Wong, the school’s executive director, knew it was only a temporary stopgap. “Over 50 percent of our parents have either lost their jobs or had their hours slashed, so they’re really struggling,” she said on Monday. “We want to make sure we are still here for them.”

The school immediately reached out to the community for help through email and social media, quickly raising $20,000. And today, March 25, at 2 p.m., The Meeting House restaurant on Witherspoon Street will be providing meals for the school to distribute to its families. The children will also receive more Send Hunger Packing bags, as well as packets of activities and art supplies.

For those families who live in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, The Meeting House is a convenient walk away. But not all of the student body is local. “More than 50 percent of our families don’t live in Princeton. They’re in Lawrence, Plainsboro, Ewing, Hamilton, and Trenton, and there are not as many resources readily available to them in those areas,” said Wong. “We’re kind of like a support line for those families, and we want to let them know we are still able to support them.”

Another obstacle is the fact that many families don’t have access to the internet, limiting communication to telephone or text. “We’re working with the teachers to keep the kids connected,” said Wong. “In the packets that the children are getting with art supplies, crayons, and worksheets, there are letters from their teacher so that they are keeping in touch.”

For those parents who are not fluent in English, the school is helping them complete forms for emergency assistance through the Princeton Human Services Department. “And we’re trying to get information for parents who live in other towns,” said Wong. “We’re constantly calling our families.”

Wong spoke to one parent, a single mother, who has temporarily lost her job and has no transportation to get to the food market. Wong got in her car, went to the store, and delivered the groceries to the woman.

“I think our message all along is that for 91 years, we have been a part of the fabric of the Princeton Community,” said Dr. Danielle Bentsen, president of the Princeton Nursery School Board of Trustees. “I am so thankful that the community has overwhelmingly supported us so we can continue to help those families that need us. We are closed for now, but our work continues to help them survive this crisis. We thank people for their past support and current support, which makes us able to pass it along to these families who so desperately need it.”

Visit or pnskids@gmail to contribute.