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.