By Stacey Dresner
GREATER SPRINGFIELD – Rachel’s Table, the hunger relief program of the Jewish Federation of Western Masschusetts will hold its 7th annual “Foodraiser” shopping contest on Sunday, Nov. 4 at the Longmeadow Big Y from 10 a.m. to noon.
The “Foodraiser,” sponsored by New England Orthopedic Surgeons and Plastic Packaging Corp., is a competition in which shoppers in teams of four try to buy the most food for the least money. All the food that is purchased will be donated directly to the agencies of Rachel’s Table. The sponsorships by New England Orthopedic Surgeons and Plastic Packaging Corp. will enable more teenagers to participate in this much-anticipated event, which provides thousands of dollars worth of food to hungry individuals in Western Massachusetts.
Rachel’s Table has been working to alleviate hunger and reduce food waste in Western Massachusetts since 1992. Six days a week, more than 200 volunteers collect food from local supermarkets, restaurants, caterers and bakeries, and deliver it to 43 agencies, including soup kitchens, food pantries, and shelters located in Springfield, Longmeadow, West Springfield, Feeding Hills, Chicopee, Holyoke, and Indian Orchard.
Distributing Kosher food
Rachel’s Table recently received a $5,000 grant from the Jewish Endowment Foundation to help provide kosher food for some Jewish families in the greater Springfield area who are struggling financially.
ESSEN-tials: a Kosher Food Initiative of Rachel’s Table and Jewish Family Service, was founded last year when Rubenstein realized that there were Jews in the area observing the Jewish dietary laws who were hungry and unable to afford to purchase kosher food items. Through ESSEN-tials, Rachel’s Table now raises money for the program, purchases and organizes kosher food for its participating clients. The kosher food is delivered to Jewish Family Service where participating families can pick it up anonymously.
Rubenstein called the one-time $5,000 grant from the Jewish Endowment Foundation “crucial” for the program to survive. “We were running out of money from community donations,” she said.
The content of the kosher food packages provided by ESSEN-tials varies, but include protein, milk and non-perishable items. “We purchase kosher meats and chicken, kosher dairy around Shavuot and food that is relevant to the different holidays, plus other things like cereal and peanut butter and other basics,” Rubenstein said. In November, the program will provide kosher turkeys for Thanksgiving, provide more basics in January, some kind of Purim-themed package around March, and a Passover meal in April.
The amount of food depends upon the size of the family. For Rosh Hashanah this year year, the program gave families chicken, ground beef, fruit like apples and pears and oranges, peanut butter, tuna fish. They alternate grains like pasta, rice and cous cous.
Rubenstein said that the program benefited only a few families when it began last year, but now around 30 people – families, seniors and children – are served through the program. But even with the $5,000 grant, the agency can only afford to distribute the kosher food packages once every other month.
“If we had more community donations we would do it every month,” Rubenstein said. “Because of the downturn in the economy, people of all walks of life have come to really hard times. There are some elderly, but there are a lot of children in the program, and we can’t have children who can’t eat.”
To participate in Rachel’s Table’s “Foodraiser” or to contribute money for food to the program, call Debbie Rubenstein at (413) 733-0 084. There is a $5 entrance fee which includes a t-shirt. (Entrance fees are tax deductible contributions to Rachel’s Table.) Prizes will be awarded for most money saved in various categories. People who are not on a “Foodraiser” team are welcome to stop by briefly to purchase needed food items for the hungry. To receive kosher food through Essen-tials, call Amy Siege at JFS, at (413) 455-1936. All inquiries are strictly confidential.