IN THE NEWS: JFS Programs Help Fight Hunger

Randall Lieberman

Jewish Journal (subscription required)

Sep 15, 2015

Pictured is a group of volunteers who gathered at the Jacobson Family Food Pantry in Delray Beach to assemble and deliver holiday food packages. The Food Pantry is one of JFS' programs that addresses hunger in south Palm Beach County.

A recent Feeding South Florida study shows Palm Beach County has the highest percentage of "food insecure" individuals in South Florida: 202,110 people do not know where they will find their next meal and 63,660 children go to bed hungry.

Feeding South Florida is the South Florida branch of Feeding America — a nationwide network of food banks fighting hunger in the United States. According to Feeding America, nearly 50 million people, or 1 in 6, in the U.S. are hungry.

To combat this huge problem, Feeding America sponsors Hunger Awareness Month every September.

In South Palm Beach County, Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services (JFS) — the Boca Raton-based social-services agency — has numerous programs in place to help address this issue and raise awareness of the problem.

Danielle Hartman, JFS president and CEO, stated: "The Jacobson Family Food Pantry, operated by JFS, distributes more than 100,000 pounds of food annually — consisting of non-perishable groceries, fresh fruits and vegetables, and challah bread — every other week free of charge to people experiencing serious financial difficulties. Founded in 1996, the Food Pantry was established to ensure that no individual or family in our community goes hungry."

Hartman continued: "The JFS Meals on Wheels Program also provides nutritionally-balanced, prepared meals which allow seniors to age in place safely for as long as possible. Through the help of our volunteers, more than 24,000 meals are delivered each year."

Many underlying factors can cause "food insecurity." Unemployment or underemployment, mental health issues, emergency expenses and domestic violence are all areas that can impact one's financial situation and therefore their ability to purchase a sufficient amount of food.

In a recent Florida Weekly article, the United Way of Palm Beach County reported that 41 percent of households are walking a financial tightrope in Palm Beach County and may be one unexpected expense away from hunger; 12 percent live below the poverty line and an additional 29 percent earn more than the poverty level but less than the basic cost of living.

In the most recent "food insecurity" survey conducted in Palm Beach County, 1 in 3 households with incomes less than or equal to $35,000 ran out of food before they had money to buy more.

And during a door-to-door survey of a sample of households with children in Palm Beach County, 20 percent of these households cut the size of children's meals because there was not enough money for food.

These figures point out the importance of the JFS food programs.

Hartman stated: "We cannot turn our heads from the face of these grim statistics. JFS is facing this issue head on and reaching out and putting food on the tables of hundreds in our community."

As with any JFS program or service, clients are automatically connected to the JFS family of services regardless of which program or service they were originally introduced to the agency through.

JFS clients can then access a variety of other programs and services to enhance and improve their quality of life.

Funding for JFS is provided by private and corporate support, grants, special events and individuals who reach thousands in need each year.

To learn more about JFS, or to make a donation, visit www.ralesjfs.org or call 561-852-3333.

Volunteer opportunities also are available at the Jacobson Family Food Pantry in Delray Beach, or for the Meals on Wheels Program. For more information about volunteering, contact Nadine Greenberg, director of volunteer services, at nadineg@ralesjfs.org or 561-852-3333.

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