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“50,000 pounds to Met Council from Empire Kosher,” The Jewish Star, February 13, 2009.

The Jewish Star
50,000 pounds to Met Council from Empire Kosher
By Mayer Fertig
February 13, 2009

A kosher food pantry in Far Rockaway is expected to be among those sharing 50,000 pounds of chicken and turkey products to be donated by Empire Kosher Poultry this year.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the gift to the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty at a news conference last Friday at the Oneg Shabbos kosher food pantry in Borough Park, Brooklyn.

“One of the most difficult things to provide for people who are kosher is protein, with the exception of tuna and tofu,” said William Rapfogel, who heads the Met Council. “Maintaining a steady supply of kosher chicken has always been extremely tough for us in the past.”

Met Council provides food to 13,000 needy families each month at sites across New York City. Need is increasing as the economy worsens and more breadwinners lose their jobs, Rapfogel said. Demand has 30 percent at kosher food pantries with many younger families and members of the middle class among the new recipients.

“Six hundred thousand more people are worried about feeding their families,” said Mayor Bloomberg, referring to new unemployment figures released last week.

At the Far Rockaway kosher pantry operated by the Jewish Services Coalition, increased demand has meant that each client only receives bags of food once every other month, unless a social worker is aware of a special need.

“The demand in the last couple of months has quadrupled,” said Executive Director Esther Schenker. “We see about 90 new people a month, people we never used to see.”

Schenker orders food from her various sources every week to 10 days, she said, twice as often as in the past, and whatever her facility’s share of Empire’s gift turns out to be, it is not likely to go nearly as far as it needs to.

“It will most probably be one distribution,” Schenker predicted, though she noted that she had no information about what she might actually receive.

“We try to give them a very well-rounded package –– milk, grains, fruit. They get two to three grocery bags. That’s it,” said Schenker. “It’s not enough for two months. They go from my pantry to another pantry to another pantry. Those people who are kosher…have a problem.”

Schenker said her organization works closely with the Jewish Community Center of the Rockaway Peninsula to provide services beyond the meager supply of food. The two groups share office space.

“Food is just a band-aid,” Schenker said. “We ask them, ‘Do you want food stamps? Do you have health insurance? Do you want to work?’ We’ll try to help them get a job. To get food stamps. You can’t survive on food pantries.”

To make a donation to the kosher food pantry, call her office at (718) 327-6060.

[The Kol Ditzrich food pantry at the JCC of the Greater Five Towns made an urgent appeal for food donations Tuesday, citing increased demand. Call 516-569-6733 for more information. Kol Ditzrich is not affiliated with the Met Council.]

Greg Rosenbaum, CEO of Empire Kosher, called on “our kosher industry colleagues” to make donations of their own to the Met Council food bank.

“In such tough times we need to be sure that every family in our community has access to healthy and wholesome foods,” he said.

“Empire is an example of how a company can do well while doing good,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Jewish Labor Committee, which made the connection between Empire and Met Council. “At a time when all we hear about is corporate greed, they’re a reminder that the truly successful businesses are those that work with unions and give back to the community.”