According to Mitzvah Food Project associate Drisana Davis, the name was changed to reflect the "breadth of hunger-relief services we offer, as well as the project's plans to expand its efforts to raise awareness about hunger through community education and advocacy."
Coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the network served more than 4,300 people in 2006-07 and distributed more than 23,000 food packages.
About 100 volunteers help operate the five sites throughout the year, assisted by synagogue and other community groups. Project recipients include elderly individuals and couples, single-parent families, the chronically ill, and those who are newly poor due to recent unemployment or major medical problems.
"We aspire to help our clients forge pathways out of poverty," said Davis, explaining that staff and volunteers use distribution of supplemental food packages and supermarket vouchers as a springboard to develop relationships with hunger-relief recipients, in addition to helping them connect with social workers who might be able to recommend supportive services.
A resource center also exists at each site, where trained staff and volunteers distribute information about emergency relief and case-management services.
In partnership with the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, resource-center workers can determine client eligibility for food-stamp entitlements and assist them with the application process.
They also are able to connect clients to a wide variety of community resources, thanks to the working relationships with the Jewish Information Referral Service, and the Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia.