JFS Food Pantry – The Need Continues to Grow

The spirit of generosity is perhaps  most evident through the  holiday season. At JFS we are  blessed, year-round, by the generosity  of our community who gives  in so many ways. This month we  shine a light on one of the ways  our community gives to JFS –  through the JFS food pantry. 

As food pantries have grown  across the US, so too has the food  pantry at JFS. What started over  30 years ago, serving just a handful  of clients, helped almost 700  individuals and 336 families last  year. Designed to serve those in  the Jewish community who have  been identified as food insecure,  without the resources to provide  complete meals for themselves or  their families, the JFS food pantry  is a vital part of our Jewish community.  Once qualified, recipients  are given the opportunity to  “shop” every other week, by filling  out a menu request form. And  while some people have a hard  time thinking that Jews anywhere  could be short on food, especially  in Charlotte, the numbers of  people accessing the pantry, the  number of visits to the pantry, and  those calling for emergency bags  of groceries is on the rise.  

The Charlotte community is a  generous one and the pantry benefits  from individual contributors,  affinity groups and larger organizations  that help keep the pantry  stocked and running. JFS Community  Liaison and Volunteer  Coordinator, Roberta Rodgers,  ensures the operations of the pantry  run smoothly. “There are lots  of moving parts to keep the pantry  running and also to ensure that  each client is getting what they  need and want – we do our best,”  Rodgers said. “For some of our  senior clients who are ‘shut-ins,’  who are unable to get to the pantry,  we take their orders over the  phone and ask one of our volunteers  to deliver their order.” 

Rodgers explains that once  a month an order is placed with  Loaves and Fishes, an organization  serving Mecklenburg Country  who is dedicated to supplying  groceries for people in need.  JFS is considered one of their  mini-pantries. Smaller businesses  too like Poppy’s bagels contribute,  allowing our volunteers to  pick up bagels each week. “We  have a lot of volunteers, doing  many different things,” Rodgers  said.  

Frada Mozenter, a retired librarian,  and a dedicated JFS  pantry volunteer for the past 7-½  years organizes and sorts through  incoming donations. She collects  donations from the bins throughout  Shalom Park, completes a  weekly inventory, creates the  menu, and fills client orders. She  has seen many come and go over  the years in the pantry. “When I  no longer see the younger clients,  I often wonder if they got back on  their feet or if they simply came  on a day I was not there, or even  if they’ve moved. I miss talking  with them,” Mozenter said. “I  marvel at their resilience and confident  attitudes, something JFS  helps people with.”  

The Circle of Generous Hearts,  a dedicated group of women who  donate homemade, kosher-style,  individual meals to the JFS Food  Pantry are in large part responsible  for ensuring that the JFS  Pantry can provide Jewish families  with holiday meals for Rosh  Hashanah and Passover. Over the  past 12 months, they’ve provided  1,299 meals to the Pantry; for  everyday needs and for holidays.  One member shared, “We believe  in giving back, and I love to  cook,” she said, “besides, feeding  the hungry is one of the biggest  mitzvahs in Judaism.”  

And thanks to Shalom Park  Community Garden, a place  where Shalom Park community  members have the opportunity for  service, and learning about growing  organic food, the JFS food  pantry clients have received over  150 pounds of fresh produce this  past year, including tomatoes,  squash, peppers, greens, okra,  root vegetables, figs, and grapes.  

And what a blessing it is to see  a child ask for donations to the  JFS food pantry instead of birthday  gifts. We’ve even had adults  do this, too. This sort of giving  is catching on especially at Shalom  Park community and partners,  with food drives held by the  synagogues, schools, library, and  schools. This allows us to provide  supplemental food to clients in  need when they need it the most. 

We are grateful for the outpouring  of support. Each week  a list of items the pantry needs  is listed on the JFS website, at  jfscharlotte.org. The following is  a list of often requested items that  are often difficult to get:  Full size toothpaste, shampoo,  conditioner, bar soap; pasta  sauce, oatmeal, juice boxes,  canned salmon, vegetarian baked  beans, jelly, mayonnaise, ground  coffee, laundry detergent, cookies,  chip, snack items.  Wishing all a happy holiday  season. Thank you for considering  JFS.