IN THE NEWS: Food Pantry Expands to Serve the Needy
Nov 29, 2012
A food pantry with a grocery delivery service will also allow patrons to shop onsite at its new warehouse in Delray Beach.
The new "Food Pantry at JFS," or Jewish Family Service, consists of 2,600 square feet of ceiling-to-floor shelving, including a kosher section, a walk-in refrigerator, loading dock, shopping area and packing tables.
The Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service moved the pantry to the new site on Congress Avenue after outgrowing a trailer and scattered storage spaces on the West Boca campus of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County.
"We were using every nook and cranny, including storing food in our employee break area," said Danielle Hartman, family service president. "Now we have enough space where delivery trucks can drive right up and unload."
All pantry users must be food-stamp recipients. Jewish Family Service staff helps people who don't receive government assistance to fill out the proper paperwork, Hartman said. Shoppers who want to select their own items must make an appointment to ensure dignity and privacy, she said.
The food bank on the federation campus, called the Forster Family Kosher Food Pantry, opened in 1996, when it served 35 families. Now, more than 400 families, mostly homebound seniors, receive twice-monthly deliveries, which include non-perishable goods, such as beans, pasta and rice, fresh produce and a challah.
The pantry is expanding at the same time a new report shows the number of South Floridians on food stamps grew in October by 17,000, totaling more than 1 million, according to the state Department of Children and Families. In Palm Beach County, the number of people on food stamps has ballooned 300 percent since 2008.
"I've been shocked that in our community, there are really hungry people next door and we don't know it, and they don't want us to know it," said Roger Leavy, of Boca Raton, a volunteer for the past three years.
The expanded space in Delray Beach allows the pantry to offer non-kosher items, which the family service can buy in bulk, Hartman said. Kosher foods are still available on request. About 20 percent of recipients request kosher, she said.
The warehouse has a small staff, including a manager and a driver. Volunteers will be needed almost daily to shop for food, stock shelves, check inventory and assemble bags for delivery.
Lisa Goodman, of Boca Raton, a volunteer for the past six years, said she has noticed a larger assortment of patrons since 2008, when the recession began. Although the pantry used to serve mostly senior citizens, younger families have begun requesting food, she said.
"I always felt we've been able to grow with the needs; we've never had a waiting list," said Goodman, who chairs the family service's pantry committee. "Now we can be more efficient and more cost-effective by buying in bulk."
People who want to shop at the pantry or volunteer can call the Jewish Family Service at 561-852-3333.
Lsolomon@tribune.com or 561-243-6536
Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service offers help, hope and humanity through a comprehensive range of programs and services which support people of all ages and beliefs. With locations in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, JFS programs and services include food and financial assistance, senior services, counseling and mental health services and many volunteer opportunities. Visit www.rrjfs.org.
At the hub of the Jewish community, the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County serves the Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Highland Beach areas, raising and allocating millions of dollars each year to meet vital human needs locally, in Israel and 70 countries around the world. The JCRC is the public policy voice of the Federation. Visit www.jewishboca.org.