SPRINGFIELD – Earlier this month Sen. Eric P. Lesser announced that $25,000 in state funding has been secured for Rachel’s Table, the food rescue and redistribution program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts.
Sen. Lesse was joined by Rep. Brian M. Ashe and Rep. Jacob R. Oliveira at a press conference held at the Springfield Jewish Community on Monday, Oct. 4.
They were welcomed by Jodi Falk, director of Rachel’s Table; Nora Gorenstein, interim executive director of the Jewish Federation of Western Mass.; Ellen Gold, board president of Rachel’s Table; and Sarah Maniaci, associate director of Rachel’s Table
“Rachel’s Table truly is rooted in community,” said Sen. Lesser. “They went from delivering 13,000 lbs of food in October 2019 to 70,000 lbs in October 2020. It was community partners like Rachel’s Table that answered the call to feed neighbors and friends of ours that were in a lot of trouble during the pandemic. They base their mission on the Jewish and universal value that no person should be hungry and that no food should go to waste by working with partners to collect and distribute unused food to those who need it. They have a great presence and team rooted in Western Mass and I’m proud to support their efforts.”
Senator Lesser acted as lead budget sponsor in the Senate in securing this earmark in the Fiscal Year 22 budget. The budget was passed by the Senate and House and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker in July. This funding will offset the cost of a larger vehicle for the organization that their volunteers use to support food deliveries.
“This wonderful and critical support of our work from State Senator Lesser’s office will go a long way to help us feed people in our region,” said Falk. “Even before the pandemic, Massachusetts ranked number one in the highest increase in food insecurity in our country. We all need to step up to change this. It is with partnerships between non-profits, government, and private sectors that we can do this. We thank Senator Lesser for all of his tireless work to make a positive impact on the people of Springfield.”
“We are proud of the work Rachel’s Table is doing to address hunger in the Pioneer Valley and how the program staff and volunteers transformed and increased its food distribution methods to meet the current demand caused by COVID-19,” said Gorenstein. “The funding secured by Senator Lesser will allow our Rachel’s Table program to more sustainably fight hunger in our region in furtherance of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts’ mission to support those in need.”
The funding arrives at Rachel’s Table as the agency has joined forces with
the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts (FBWM) to transport food directly from designated grocery stores to the FBWM agencies, filling the gap where agencies lacked transportation or when its volunteers were needed elsewhere.
“We are thrilled to partner with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to help deliver food to agencies, especially for those who need our transportation,” Falk said. “Transporting healthy food to people instead of it going into landfill is what we have been doing for almost 30 years and being able to use our operations to better serve our neighbors in the Pioneer Valley is a win for everyone. It is the epitome of partnership to fill gaps and support each other’s good work.”
Rachel’s Table partnership with The Food Bank began pre-pandemic in Westfield and has become revitalized during the past several months. Together, Rachel’s Table and The Food Bank serve seven agencies, with 13 Rachel’s Table volunteer drivers rescuing rescue nutritious food from eight donors in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties.
Starting slowly but deliberately, more than 15,000 lbs. of healthy meat, produce and dairy have been delivered since the program began, and there is more to come.
“Our teams met together and it was clear that our services were complementary, and working together, we would positively impact the communities we serve,” said Shirley DelRio, director of Food Operations at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.
Currently using volunteer cars, the Rachel’s Table – Food Bank Partnership drivers are servsafe-trained and use freezer blankets and infrared thermometers to ensure food deliveries remain safe.
Rachel’s Table also received $7,000 from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts in 2019 that helped purchase 100 blankets and thermometers for this task.
People interested in driving for Rachel’s Table, or who know of food from a local restaurant, bakery or grocery store that is going to waste, please contact Rachel’s Table at www.rachelstablepv.org.
Lesser; Sarah Maniaci, associate director of Rachel’s Table; Nora Gorenstein, interim executive director of the Jewish Federation Western Mass; Ellen Gold, board president of Rachel’s Table; and Rep. Jacob Oliveira at the Oct. 4 press conference.
Main Photo: Rep. Brian Ashe; staff of Rep. Williams, Rachel’s Table Director Jodi Falk; Sen. Eric Lesser;
Sarah Maniaci, associate director of Rachel’s Table; Nora Gorenstein, interim executive director of the Jewish Federation Western Mass; Ellen Gold, board president of Rachel’s Table; and Rep. Jacob Oliveira at the Oct. 4 press conference.