Responding to Food Insecurity in Jewish Cleveland

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Across America, 37.2 million people (including 11 million children) live in food-insecure households. With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in Northeast Ohio, those who were already facing food insecurity found themselves even more challenged to care for themselves and their families. And, as the realities of the economic impact of the pandemic have taken hold, the number of people confronting food insecurity has increased significantly and continues to grow.

To respond to food insecurity needs within our community, the Federation has been working closely with such partner organizations as the Cleveland Chesed Center, Gesher, and Jewish Family Service Association (JFSA) to provide wraparound services – food delivery and distribution, as well as financial counseling – to make sure vulnerable populations have the necessary means to survive through hardship.

“We immediately saw a 25 to 30 percent increase in clients from what we saw last year,” said Rabbi Avrohom Adler, executive director of the Cleveland Chesed Center. “Even after Pesach, we have seen a 15 to 20 percent increase in the number of clients we have been serving – sometimes, close to 100 families a day.”

“Thanks to the well-established collaboration with Federation and Chesed Center, we are able to mobilize and respond quickly to both food insecurity and financial challenges,” said Ginny Galili, MSSA, executive director, Strengthening Families at JFSA. “Individuals and families who were already stretched from paycheck to paycheck are facing the toughest challenges.”

At the same time, the Federation, JFSA, and the Chesed Center are working with a non-profit on Cleveland’s west side to address food insecurity. The West Tribe, co-founded by Jewish Cleveland young leader Mariely Luengo, organized a Community Food Co-op in the beginning weeks of the pandemic where people can “shop” for free produce, meat, dairy, bread, personal care items, and more.

“Our priority is to serve the families, while preserving their dignity, much like the mantra of the Cleveland Chesed Center,” said Luengo. “We are hyper-aware that this crisis forced a lot of families into situations unimaginable for themselves and we will do whatever we can to help them.”

“We’re able to help these community members because of the support from Federation and because we all have the same common goal,” said Rabbi Adler. “We all work together, and we’ve been working together for a long time to make sure our community is taken care of. We’re proud of that partnership and a relationship that is sound and solid.”

For more information on how Federation is assisting with food insecurity, contact Shelley Fishbach at sfishbach@jcfcleve.org or 216-593-2812.

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