One of the “good news” stories being reported these days is the imminent promise of another stimulus check for most Americans. For families and individuals struggling to pay rent or to put food on the table, that is a welcome prospect. It is no secret that many people are struggling – some more than others, of course. But what is sometimes overlooked is the fact that many of the institutions which for decades have worked tirelessly to help people meet special and vital needs are facing challenges of their own as well. As the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger we have been and continue to be focused on the unique nutritional needs of older individuals who often have fewer resources (and not just financial ones) than their younger friends and neighbors. The hardships that everyone has experienced over the past year often fall heavier on them. The same can be true of those local entities whose mission is to serve them. Yes, we are talking about local senior nutrition programs. Like individuals, they too often undergo financial strain that seems to be more intensely felt in times of widespread hardship.
In December of last year when we issued a call for applications to the Jack & Eleanor Borden Kosher Meal Fund for grants of at least $500 to programs that provide kosher meals to elders in their communities, we were not necessarily thinking about coronavirus-related issues that have further complicated the work of senior nutrition programs. We were faithfully carrying forth the legacy work of that special program. But like everything else in the past year, that grant program took on a more critical meaning. As we evaluated applications and heard firsthand from applicant programs the serious and growing needs that they faced, we made the decision to award $1,000 grants each to two senior nutrition programs.
The programs selected — Raleigh-Cary Jewish Family Services in Raleigh, NC, and Jewish Family and Community Services in Jacksonville, FL – are as different as the geographies where they operate and as the individuals they serve. What is alike about them is the vital and life-sustaining and -affirming services they provide. We are pleased to share with you a bit of their stories, in their own words
From North Carolina –“JFS Food Pantry is the only food pantry in Wake County that specifically offers a selection of non-perishable kosher food. In January, we will be receiving a donated refrigerator that will allow us to offer kosher perishable foods. Through our Mitzvah Meals program, we offer prepared, kosher-style meals twice a month to isolated seniors and others facing a hardship or food insecurity. The COVID-19 crisis has brought a sharp increase in requests for food assistance. By the end of November 2020, we … distributed 897 Mitzvah Meals, which is 215% more than the total number distributed in 2019. “
From Florida –“JFCS is honored to serve approximately 100 Holocaust Survivors…The repercussions of wartime starvation are an overlooked and poorly understood factor in the lives of Holocaust Survivors today. [S]ome survivors tend to hoard food or eat spoiled food rather than throw it away… Making nutrition and health even more challenging is the shockingly widespread rate of poverty among Holocaust Survivors, making it difficult for many to consistently nourish themselves. Our Meals4You program is targeted to meet the nutritional and cultural needs of isolated Jewish seniors who live at or below the federal poverty level and/or are considered low income. This program is the ONLY kosher “meals on wheels” program in Northeast Florida.”
The $1,000 Jack and Eleanor Borden Kosher Meal Fund grants were, as we alluded to earlier, a unique kind of “stimulus” payment. They not only to helped two senior nutrition programs relieve present day hunger for some of our nation’s most vulnerable seniors but they also honored and helped preserve an important heritage. For donors, recipient meal programs and the clients they serve, that stimulates respect, health and hope. And those are gifts more precious than money can buy.