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Mercer Street Friends Hosts Fourth Annual Leadership Awards Celebration - Honoring New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin

Mercer Street Friends Hosts Fourth Annual Leadership Awards Celebration - Honoring New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin

Mercer Street Friends Hosts Fourth Annual Leadership Awards Celebration

Honoring New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin 

Award Introduction from CEO of Feeding America, Claire Babineaux-Fontenot 


Ewing, N.J. – Mercer Street Friends, a nonprofit supporting the community as the Food Bank for Mercer County and through comprehensive family and education programs, hosted the Fourth Annual Leadership Awards, presented by NJM Insurance Group, on June 10, 2024, at its newly opened food bank location in Ewing, N.J.

This event recognized New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin (D-Middlesex) with the 2024 Humanitarian Award for his dedication to ending food insecurity in New Jersey. Special guest Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America formally introduced Speaker Coughlin. Throughout his career, Coughlin has dedicated himself and his platform to working toward a future in which no family suffers the effects of food insecurity.

“Speaker Coughlin’s unwavering dedication to the people of New Jersey makes him the ideal recipient of this award,” said Bernie Flynn, CEO, Mercer Street Friends. “The dedication of leaders such as the Speaker and Claire Babineaux-Fontenot has helped Mercer Street Friends make an impact in the Mercer County community. We are pleased to award Speaker Coughlin with this prestigious distinction as a fighter for the people of New Jersey.”

Speaker Coughlin, during his tenure in state leadership, raised the monthly minimum SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) benefit from $50 to $95, has expanded free school lunch opportunities for children, increased aid to food banks by 800% and created New Jersey’s Office of Food Security Advocate, the first in the nation. With the support of other community leaders and organizations, Coughlin has stated he hopes to eliminate hunger in New Jersey by 2030.

“I am honored to accept this distinction from Mercer Street Friends, an organization that has been empowering local families and supporting them on their journey to stability and food security since 1958,” said Coughlin. “And I was thrilled to be part of an inspiring evening that brought together so many champions of the community, who are working to end hunger in our New Jersey neighborhoods. Community involvement is the backbone of any successful initiative, and I am encouraged by the tireless work of Mercer Street Friends and its network.”

Mercer Street Friends is a member of the Feeding America network of more than 200 foodbanks from around the country, and proudly welcomed Babineaux-Fontenot to its warehouse for the first time.

“The type of change needed to end hunger in New Jersey and across the country requires strong leaders and strong partnerships. Together, with food banks, community partners and people facing food insecurity, we are moving toward the hunger-free future we are all striving to achieve,” said Babineaux-Fontenot. “Organizations like Mercer Street Friends and leaders who use their platforms to catalyze positive change, like Speaker Coughlin, are critical in the movement to end hunger and ensure that everyone has the food they need to thrive.”

Additional event sponsors included: Anne Irwin & Bob Holt and Capital Health (Benefit Sponsors); and Ann & Bernie Flynn, Bank of America and Selective (Awards Sponsors).

To learn more about Mercer Street Friends, visit



New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin (center) received the 2024 Humanitarian Award at Mercer Street Friends’ Fourth Annual Leadership Awards Celebration. Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO, Feeding America (left) and Bernie Flynn, CEO, Mercer Street Friends (right) presented Coughlin with the Award.

About Mercer Street Friends
As a Quaker-affiliated, nonsectarian 501(c)(3) organization, Mercer Street Friends is dedicated to nourishing minds and bodies, empowering families, and communities by providing comprehensive programs to address poverty and the physical and emotional trauma it creates for children, families and the community. Their work is focused on three critical areas: food, families, and education. To learn more about Mercer Street Friends, visit

About Feeding America

Feeding America is committed to an America where no one is hungry. We support tens of millions of people who experience food insecurity to get the food and resources they say they need to thrive as part of a nationwide network of food banks, statewide food bank associations, food pantries and meal programs. We also invest in innovative solutions to increase equitable access to nutritious food, advocate for legislation that improves food security and work to address factors that impact food security, such as health, cost of living and employment.   

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