On June 30, a group of more than 10 volunteers from UJA-Federation of New York's Engage Jewish Service Corps at JCC Manhattan attended the Summer Fancy Food Show, an annual specialty food showplace held at the Javits Center. The event featured approximately 2,000 exhibitors from over 50 countries and regions. The volunteers were neither vendors nor buyers—they were there to rescue kosher food, which would otherwise go to waste. The food they sorted would be used for food packages to be given to NYC’s hungry, kosher-observant population.
I spoke to a member of the Engage volunteer team, Bob Grossweiner, who told me that all of the volunteers, including Engage Director Rabbi Brian Fink, worked hard, learned about international kosher food certifications, and thoroughly enjoyed being part of this unique Engage volunteer event in partnership with City Harvest.
City Harvest, founded in 1982, is dedicated to helping feed the 1.4 million New Yorkers facing hunger. It relies on volunteers to help with food rescuing and distribution, nutrition education, and related tasks. From the Fancy Food event alone, a total of seven and half tractor trailers of high-end food were delivered to close to 20 soup kitchens and food pantries across NYC’s five boroughs.
I spoke with Rebecca Glass, the City Harvest kosher Initiative manager. She has seen the need for kosher food nearly triple over the last few years.
City Harvest must rely on donations from manufacturers, wholesalers, farmers, and other sponsors. Most of the rescued items that would be appropriate for the kosher clients are produce and dairy. Kosher meat and other forms of protein are in very limited supply. Currently, City Harvest is looking to expand its partnerships with synagogues and related venues.
City Harvest offers a variety of volunteer opportunities aimed not only at feeding the hungry but also at educating people about healthy eating. Through Engage's partnership with City Harvest, volunteer Patricia Munzer trained to conduct nutrition classes at local community and senior centers, teaching people how to shop wisely and check food ingredients. She says that her ongoing volunteer work is “very rewarding, well organized, and a learning experience."
Volunteering with City Harvest as an Engage volunteer is a “hands-on” way to make a difference.
To learn more about Engage's partnership with City Harvest and volunteer, please contact Rabbi Brian Fink at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646.505.4408.