Jacob Klaven and his daughter, Tamar, bring canned goods to the MJCC lobby

Have you ever gone to the refrigerator and found that the meal you’d been dreaming of wasn’t there? For some in our community, that’s a more frequent reality than we’d like to admit.

Jewish Family Service (JFS) at the Memphis Jewish Community Center (MJCC) provides free food to assist community members in need, particularly vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities, through the following programs:

Kosher food pantry – shelf-stable food (such as canned goods, pasta, beans, cereal and juices) provided through the Mid-South Food Bank and individual/congregational donations

Kosher frozen nutritious meals – delivered to homebound seniors by volunteers and JFS/MJCC staff, or picked up at MJCC

Fresh produce – gleaned from an area farmer’s market through the Beth Sholom Tikkun Olam program to supplement the frozen meals and pantry offerings.

Special donations – challah and cookies from Ricki Krupp of Ricki’s Cookie Corner & Bakery make frozen meals and pantry bags even more special

JFS provides the only free kosher home-delivered meal and food pantry programs in the Mid-South. These services help support needy Jewish seniors, a priority identified in the Jewish Community Partners (JCP) 2014 Community Needs Assessment Study.

The kosher frozen meals program is designed for seniors age 60 and over or people with disabilities who are unable to cook for themselves. Funding is provided through JCP and the No Hungry Senior program administered by MIFA (Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association) with funding from the Plough Foundation. Most clients who receive frozen meals also qualify for food pantry services. Eligibility for the food pantry is based on financial need or crisis. The MJCC is a place for everyone!

The story of one program participant tells it all:

Ms. J. was doing pretty well, working fulltime, managing the ups and downs of life. Then she had a medical emergency and has been unable to work since. For years she struggled, going through her savings, getting by with the help of family and friends, going through the lengthy process of qualifying for social security disability income. Finally, she “got to the point where there was nothing in the house. I ate crackers and cat food tuna with a little mustard.”

She called Janet Rubin at Jewish Family Service, who immediately got her started on the kosher meal and food pantry programs. This consumer noted, “I just hit rock bottom, and I needed help. That’s why these meals are so important. So many people are living on the margins, and if one little thing changes, it’s the difference between having nothing and having something to eat.”

In addition, she commented, “It’s not just the program – it’s the people who are running it.” She says the caring people at JFS take the time to accommodate her special needs. “They are always very careful about my dietary needs. They’ll even request special things from the food bank for me. I can’t say enough about it. It’s been a lifesaver.”

Hayley Levy brings JFS Counselor Bill Monroe food pantry items

From January through October 2017, the JFS kosher meals program provided 5731 meals – a 17% increase over the number provided during the same period in 2016. In its first nine months of operation in 2017, the JFS food pantry distributed 262 bags of shelf-stable food and 158 bags of fresh produce, in addition to household items like toilet paper and dishwashing liquid.

The food assistance programs complement the other JFS programs – Shalom Shuttle, Senior Case Management, Special Needs program, Individual and Family Counseling, Handy Helper and Friendly Visitor services, Coffee, Cake and Conversation for Holocaust survivors – and the popular and inexpensive congregate kosher meals program at MJCC and Plough Towers. The congregate meals program is generously underwritten by JCP funding from the Scheidt-Hohenberg Foundation. Meal delivery and other JFS programs are also meaningful volunteer opportunities, providing a way to give tangible support to vulnerable community members.

Donations of shelf-stable, unopened, unexpired kosher food are always welcome and can be brought to the blue bucket near the Member Service Desk at MJCC, 6560 Poplar Avenue or to Jewish Family Service (enter at side door of MJCC). Financial donations can be made in person at JFS or MJCC, with cash, written check to Jewish Family Service or credit card; or go to memphisjcc.org, press donate, then follow the prompts. Mail checks to JFS 6560 Poplar Ave. Memphis, TN 38138.

The following items are needed:

Food (kosher, unopened unexpired):
Canned fruits in juice (not heavy syrup)
Canned vegetables (preferably low sodium)
Canned or bottled fruit juice
Pasta sauce
Salmon (cans or pouches)
Soup (can or box)
Tuna (cans or pouches in water)

Household items:
Toilet paper
Paper towels
Soap (bar or liquid)
Body lotion