Imagine being in the unenviable position of choosing between filling up your car or putting food on your family’s Passover table. For many in the Five Towns – including senior citizens faced with the decision to buy medicine or food – that is a sad and grim reality.
The sluggish economy and higher prices for nearly everything, especially gasoline and home heating oil, has forced many of our neighbors to make these difficult choices every day. For 267 Five Towns families faced with these difficulties, the JCC of the Greater Five Towns’s Kol Ditzrich kosher food pantry in Woodmere is providing some welcome relief. A sharp rise in the number of families accessing the food pantry is stretching its ability to serve those in need, and the demand is growing. The pantry, which saw a major increase over last year in the number of families accessing the community resource, saw five new families looking for help just last week. Many of those recently visiting the pantry at 1012 Central Avenue were looking for the typical items needed for the traditional Passover Seder.
“Passover is a family-oriented holiday, a time of togetherness, and it’s heartbreaking to know that some of our neighbors may not even be able to afford to buy something as simple as matzot,” said Rina Shkolnik, executive director of the JCC of the Greater Five Towns. “We are seeing more families and seniors coming to our food pantry for help, and their stories are similar and very sad.” Many of those who rely on the pantry for food are not eligible for government assistance, such as food stamps. A report by Feeding America and Island Harvest said that among 117,000 people in Nassau County identified as being at-risk for hunger, 62 percent do not fall within the eligibility guidelines for help from programs such as the SNAP program (formerly food stamps).
Ellen Warshall, coordinator of the JCC’s kosher food pantry, tells the story of the family of five whereby both parents, professionals with college degrees, lost their jobs. While they eventually found work, their debt had mounted and their new salaries were not nearly what they formerly earned, putting them in a tight financial situation. “They told us that the pantry had become not only a lifeline in providing much-needed food for their family, but it was a blessing because of the kindness of the staff and volunteers who helped them cope with their new situation,” said Warshall.
The pantry receives support from UJA-Federation of NY and several community-based organizations, like the Five Towns Community Chest, local synagogues and schools. But it is largely funded as a result of the generosity of individual donations.
As a mitzvah to help those struggling to enjoy a warm and blessed Passover holiday, the JCC of the Greater Five Towns is reaching out to the community for monetary gifts or donations of non-perishable kosher-for-Pesach food items to help our less fortunate neighbors during this special time of year. Among the food items gratefully accepted are frozen kosher poultry. Personal care items – such as diapers, deodorant, toothpaste, and shampoo – are also welcome. To drop off food or personal care items, please call the Kol Ditzrich kosher food pantry at 516-295-5678. For financial contributions, please make checks payable to the JCC of the Greater Five Towns Food Pantry, 207 Grove Avenue, Cedarhurst, NY 11516.
Working together, your generous donations to the food pantry will allow our less fortunate neighbors enjoy the warmth, happiness and spirit of Passover. The JCC wishes everyone in the community a Happy Passover, and thanks you for your support of what has become a vital community resource for those facing difficult times.