Photo Credit: City Harvest
A City Harvest truck making deliveries.

The Talmud relates that when Abba Chilkiyah and his wife davened for rain, the rain came from the direction near which Abba Chilkiyah’s wife was standing first. Abba Chilkiyah explained that this is because when his wife gave tzedakah to the poor she gave them food, whereas he, Abba Chilkiyah, only gave money. Many tzedakah and chesed organizations today, like Abba Chilkiyah’s wife, give food directly to the needy. The OU and Gemiluth Chessed have recently partnered with Empire Chicken and the food distribution organization called City Harvest to distribute twelve-thousand pounds of healthy, nourishing kosher chicken to Jewish families in need.

In addition to the spiritual reasons, there are also pragmatic reasons why organizations prefer giving food as opposed to money as charity. According to Rabbi Simon Taylor of the OU, there are at least two practical reasons for tzedakah organizations to distribute food. One is that donors like to be sure that their donations are going to a worthy cause. The other is that buying and distributing in bulk is more cost effective:


“If we give each needy person the amount of money they need to buy the chicken, it ends up costing three times the price,” explained Rabbi Taylor. The discount for the chicken being distributed by this program is not only because it is distributed in bulk but because Empire Chicken recognized the importance of the program and offered an additional discount. Dr. Peter Kahn of Gemiluth Chessed said, “We’re very grateful to Empire for heavily discounting kosher chicken that we were able to purchase to be able to maximize affordability to our organization and to the OU to distribute the chicken to those most in need.”

Seth Cowan of City Harvest explained that City Harvest, which has had a kosher route since 1999 and currently drops off food at twenty-three different kosher food pantries, usually distributes produce (about seventy percent of the food that City Harvest distributes is fresh produce) and shelf-stable kosher-certified products such as Kind bars. City Harvest has also distributed kosher meat sometimes in the past as when, last Thanksgiving, they distributed three-hundred-and-forty turkeys to kosher food pantries. The trucks which distribute the food on City Harvest’s kosher route carry only kosher food.

Under the new, one-time pilot program, which serviced families who live in the five boroughs of New York City and keep kosher, City Fresh distributed healthy, high-quality kosher protein in the form of chicken to twelve local kosher food pantries, including Oneg Shabbos, Beth Gavriel Shaare Zion, and the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. The partners who were involved in the pilot program are gathering feedback from the food pantries and considering distributing kosher chicken to kosher NYC food pantries in the future as well.

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