Maimonides said that those acts of tzedakah most worthy of praise are the ones that honor the human dignity of the recipient. This is the concept behind Federation’s Choice Food Program, a digital food market to be located inside the Klein JCC. The dream of this revolutionary new model of food security and nutrition for community members experiencing hunger and food insecurities will move one step closer to reality on Friday, Oct. 5, at noon, when Federation breaks ground on the project.
The Choice Food Program will transform the Mitzvah Food Project pantry at Klein into a food distribution model that gives low-income individuals and families the freedom to make their own food choices based on personal preferences and dietary needs. Customers will select the items of their choice from a touch screen menu, which will include virtual prices that promotes healthy eating and allows program staff to track inventory, reorder those products in highest demand and remove items from the menu when they are sold out.
“Taking this bold but logical step at the Klein JCC will enable the Mitzvah Food Project to feed far more people and provide better nutrition, put scarce pantry resources to more efficient use, transform the volunteer experience, and fulfill the mission of the Mitzvah Food Project to respect the dignity of those in need,” said Federation CEO Ira M. Schwartz, who presented the Choice Food Program model to members of the Knesset Caucus for Nutritional Security in Jerusalem last February as a potential vehicle for combating hunger in Israel.
High-quality food programs across the country are discovering that converting to a choice model is a key innovation to meeting the growing demand for food in a time of shrinking resources and rising costs.
The demand for these services in Northeast Philadelphia has grown by more than 60 percent over last year and is expected to steadily increase. According to the November 2009 report, “Nourishing Community: Ending Hunger in Philadelphia,” more than 11,000 Jews are at risk for hunger — more than 6 percent of the region’s Jewish population. The study also indicated that the highest concentration of impoverished Jews lives in the four zip codes adjacent to the Klein JCC.
“Low-income individuals often find themselves with little choice in many important areas of their lives, including housing, transportation and medical care. In light of this reality, providing a food program where people can select their own food and basic staples in a caring and dignified manner is not only an efficient model for delivering high-quality services — it is also a means of putting Jewish values into practice,” said Brian Gralnick, director of Federation’s Center for Social Responsibility.