(JTA) — A national food pantry resource center has been established to help provide nutritious kosher food to Jews in need.
The Kosher Food Lifeline is a new division of the Orthodox Union, designed to help the at least 215 food agencies in 24 states throughout the United States that provide low-cost or free kosher food to individuals and families who have food access challenges.
The Kosher Food Lifeline, which offers need-based food programs assistance with procurement, kosher food distributor relationships, government grants and other logistical support was announced by the OU on Monday.
Kedem, which focuses on kosher, gluten free and all-natural foods, provided a $200,000 grant to launch the inaugural program in advance of Passover 2019. More than 150,000 pounds of Kosher-for-Passover food were distributed to 53 partner organizations who delivered it to communities in Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Michigan, Massachusetts, Illinois, Rhode Island and the New York tristate area, supporting over 17,000 Jewish families in need.
Reasons for food access challenges vary, according to the OU. Some individuals have serious economic barriers; some live in “kosher food deserts,” where there is an extremely limited supply of kosher food and high prices; some have limited mobility and require food delivery, or have some combination of all these challenges.
“This is the first time a national program, at this scale, has addressed the needs of kosher food pantries, many of which are run by hard-working volunteers with limited resources,” said Kosher Food Lifeline Founding Director Allison Deal. “By coordinating purchases and helping corporate food donors to direct donations where they are needed, we can increase efficiency, eliminate waste, bring prices down, and hopefully, help these agencies provide more nutritious, protein-rich kosher food to those who need it most.”