Federation partners with the local synagogues and organizations that serve as food collection sites. Donated items will be distributed at the project's five volunteer-run pantries, which provide supplemental, nonperishable food packages to some 2,000 people annually. (See side-bar for pantry locations.)
"Due to major cuts in funding from the State Food Program and several other sources that we use to purchase food, we are counting on community donations to help keep food on our pantry shelves," said Lee Hillerson, chair of the Mitzvah Food Project's advisory board.
Drisana Davis, project associate, noted that community participation was especially strong last year, and she remains optimistic that the drive will be just as strong this year. She is asking synagogues and community volunteers to "increase their food donations this year, when there is increased need, due to the economic downturn."
Last year, 52 organizations participated in the High Holiday Food Drive and collected approximately 45,000 pounds of canned food -- enough for the Mitzvah Food Project to stock its pantry shelves for almost three months.
According to Hillerson, this year's goal is to collect at least 10 percent more food, to offset anticipated monetary cuts.
Canned kosher food will be collected at participating shuls and organizations throughout the High Holiday period. Each site will set specific collection dates and times for their location. Registration forms and food drive materials, including printable posters, are available at: www.jewishphilly.org/mfp .
Each geographic area of the Jewish community is scheduled to collect one particular type of canned food. Items are listed by Kehillah on the sidebar chart and on the Mitzvah Food Project Web site.
Said Davis; "We are asking people to check our Web site or contact their local synagogue directly to find out their specific food-drive dates."
According to food-drive organizers, there is an increased need for lower-salt and lower-sugar items.
"More than 50 percent of food recipients are seniors who may have difficulty lifting and using bulk sizes; therefore, we ask that donations be regular and individual-size.
"All collected canned goods are warehoused before being distributed to the pantries, so it is important that items be properly sealed and have a current date," explained Davis.
"At the High Holidays -- a time of celebration and reflection -- it is important to remember that while many of us are able to provide food for ourselves and our families, not everyone in our community is capable of doing this," said Hillerson.
Federation's recent Greater Philadelphia Jewish population study indicates that some 11,000 people in the community face food insecurity.
Hillerson explained that on Yom Kippur, "we can choose to fast, knowing full well that at sundown, we will break the fast with a wonderful meal. But many people 'fast' not by choice, but by circumstance -- and often on a daily basis -- not knowing where their next meal will come from. The High Holiday Food Drive is an opportunity to participate in doing a mitzvah by helping those in need."
For more information on the Mitzvah Food Project -- and to register your congregation or organization for the High Holiday Food Drive -- log on to: jewishphilly.org/ mfp. To volunteer with the Mitzvah Food Project, call Drisana Davis at: 215-832-0531 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ).
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MITZVAH FOOD PROJECT PANTRY SITES
Beth Sholom Congregation -- Elkins Park
Congregation Tifereth Israel of Lower Bucks County -- Bensalem
Kaiserman JCC -- Wynnewood
Klein JCC -- Northeast Philadelphia
Stiffel Senior Center -- South Philadelphia
|Kehillah Food Collection Items|
|Center City||Canned Fruit|
|Chester County||Canned Beans|
|Delaware County||Canned Tuna|
|Old York Road||Canned Vegetables|
|Lower Merion||Canned Tomato Sauce, Marinara, Pesto|
|Northeast Synagogues||Canned Tuna|
|All donations should have a current date and be properly sealed, since collected food is stored before being sorted and distributed. All food must be certified kosher; lower-sugar and lower salt items are especially needed due to the growing senior population and recipients with special dietary needs.|