The JCCRP’s food pantry has joined the group of food pantries who’ve changed their system to completely digital. The new digital system that focuses on client choice and dignity is generously supported by the UJA Federation of NY and Met Council.
The groundbreaking Digital Food Choice Pantry distributes uncooked meals to those who need food using a point system based on family size. Shopping is done on a computer or smartphone from the comfort of one’s home. Each item chosen subtracts points from an account and groceries are packed to order. Points are automatically replenished every 30 days.
With COVID raging, hunger in our community has grown tremendously. Hunger Free America reported in 2020 that 1 in 4 households lack adequate food resources. Before the pandemic hit, hunger was prevalent in the Jewish community and has since increased. Lunch programs at senior centers were forced to close; children do not receive hot meals at school; unemployment has hit record highs. Not being able to buy food for yourself and your family is hard enough, asking for help should not make someone feel worse. The digital food pantry puts people’s dignity to the forefront. It gives people the opportunity to choose their food, and the privacy they deserve.
Most people picture food insecurity as volunteers handing out sandwiches and a water bottle to people on the subway. While that is a noble effort, that is based on the belief that hungry people will accept whatever is given to them and they have no control in the matter.
The digital food pantry allows people who are struggling to choose what they receive using a point system based on family size. They choose from an online inventory that displays what the pantry has available at that time, making this a more dignified method of food distribution. People who are hungry still like certain foods and might not like certain foods. There is a lot more dignity for the people who are hungry in this system.
Before the pandemic, JCCRP’s food pantry was a client choice system. People would walk through the pantry taking what they wanted and needed. When the pandemic hit, due to health concerns, people were not allowed to walk through the food pantry anymore, taking the choice away. This is a way to give people choice and allow for social distancing.
There is a different face of hunger today than there used to be. Someone goes to a food pantry not to just “get free food,” but because they had to choose between paying their rent or having enough to eat that month. Many people have full time jobs and still cannot afford to pay all their expenses. A client expressed, “I used to feel like a schnorer going to all the food pantries and taking what I can get. I don’t eat gefilte fish; it would go to waste if they gave it to me. I am so happy that I can choose foods that my family actually eats.”
*Rivky, a local business owner, expressed, “My business was closed for months and I never saw myself going to a food pantry. The government closed my business, I had no control. This system is so amazing and it gives me some control when I don’t have many options these days.”
Moshe Brandsdorfer, executive director at the JCCRP, commented, “We are so appreciative to the UJA Federation and Met Council for their support and partnership with the digital food pantry. We urge everyone to consider volunteering at the pantry. The packages are labeled by client number, so volunteers will never see the names of recipients. This unique system feeds people with dignity and the utmost respect.”
This system is labor intensive because individualized boxes are packed for each family so volunteers are needed to assist. The JCCRP has many volunteer opportunities to help with the packing and distribution of this food. Please help feed a family in our community by signing up to volunteer at the food pantry.
To sign up as a volunteer, please email Gabe Boxer at firstname.lastname@example.org. To enroll in the digital system for food, please email email@example.com or call 718-327-7755.