Attacking Hunger Right Where It Hurts


How do you get the Jewish community to the table to address the hunger issue with other groups in Greater Philadelphia?

This was the charge of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger when they planned this year's Philadelphia World Food Day, the educational event that celebrates the work of anti-hunger organizations and promotes action to reduce hunger.

The coalition wanted to reach out to the Jewish community, according to Jessica Charmont, Federation's senior mitzvah project planner, who serves on its steering committee. As such, organizers decided to hold the free event on Oct. 28 – a Friday morning – instead of the traditional Saturday, and to invite Leonard Fein, founder of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, to be the keynote speaker.

"Working in conjunction with Federation, we chose our speaker because of his outstanding leadership in the Jewish community, and because MAZON has been so supportive," said coalition program manager Tanya Thampi Sen.

Fein founded MAZON in 1985 as a bridge between the abundance enjoyed by many and the desperate need felt by millions of hungry people. Since then, the organization has provided more than $31 million to the most effective hunger-relief organizations here and throughout the world.

Fein believes that two questions must be asked upon encountering a hungry person: " 'How can I help relieve this person's pain?' and 'Why is anyone hungry in a land of such plenty?' "

Answering those questions is the coalition's mission. The group assists some 225,000 households struggling with hunger throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and serves as a catalyst for action against hunger – both central goals of Federation's Center for Social Responsibility.

Accordingly, the center runs the Mitzvah Food Pantry network, and supplies funds to hunger-relief efforts, such as the Jewish Relief Agency, a project of Lubavitch House; the Jewish Community Centers' hot kosher meal program; frozen meals through the JCCs' Cook-for-a-Friend program and Kosher Meals on Wheels; and Jewish Family and Children's Service's Food Voucher Program.

The event, scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the William J. Green Federal Building – at 600 Arch St. in Philadelphia – will offer volunteers, social-service workers, policymakers, students and activists the chance to mingle and attend their choice of workshops.

Based on this year's theme of "Preventing Hunger, Promoting Health," topics will include making affordable food more accessible through city supermarkets and helping people on limited budgets make healthier food choices.

And in honor of the coalition's 10th anniversary, participants will be invited to share their ideas for a mural to be created this winter in conjunction with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

They'll also hear how a Lehigh Valley food bank recruited civic leaders and journalists to experience life on a food-stamp budget, and also consider ways, such as a "Food-Frugality Challenge," to increase hunger awareness for both the Jewish and general communities.

To register, call 215-430-0555.



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