Unsung Hero Lisa Katz: Kosher Food Pantry Volunteer

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By Barry Warner

Rhoda Bloom Kosher Food Pantry Coordinator Lisa Katz is standing in front of a large supply of beans that will be packaged with other food items by volunteers to be distributed to ‘food insecure’ recipients.  The work of food-related charities is based on the knowledge that hunger currently exists in our society and needs to be addressed now.
Rhoda Bloom Kosher Food Pantry Coordinator Lisa Katz is standing in front of a large supply of beans that will be packaged with other food items by volunteers to be distributed to ‘food insecure’ recipients. The work of food-related charities is based on the knowledge that hunger currently exists in our society and needs to be addressed now.

Under the auspices of Rockland Jewish Family Service, the Rhoda Bloom Kosher Food Pantry opened its doors in 1996. It’s mission is to directly serve local residents who suffer from hunger and food insecurity, meaning that these residents do not know where they will find their next meal. The Pantry is available to any Rockland County resident experiencing hardship regardless of race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or disability. Recipients are required to fill out an application to qualify for food on a monthly basis. The Pantry supplies families with kosher certified food items based on federal government recommendations. The Hebrew word kosher means fit or proper as it relates to ‘kosher dietary law’. The Pantry paperwork is strictly confidential, so recipients are assigned a numbered benefit card that must be presented at the time of food pickup.

Maria F. Dowling, Chief Executive Officer of Rockland Jewish Family Service said, “Lisa Katz brings amazing energy and passion to her role as the Food Pantry Coordinator. On food pantry Sunday, you can find Lisa at the center of the action, directing all of the volunteers to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Many of the volunteers have been involved for years and Lisa knows them all. They are like her extended family, from the families with young children to the teens and older adults. All of them are connected by their dedication and commitment to helping people in need. The Rhoda Bloom Kosher Food Pantry provides food to over 200 families per month and none of it would be possible without Lisa’s leadership.”

Lisa Katz told The Rockland County Times, “We are part of a larger organization in the county called Rockland Community Against Hunger (RCAH) and distribute food to 210 families each month. Because of their participation, our shelves are never empty. We have federal and state grant money, as well as a grant from Shoprite that can be used to purchase food at the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York and at local supermarkets. The Regional Food Bank in Latham, New York delivers food twice a month to Stony Point and the JCC in West Nyack. Each month, I coordinate with the 13 temples and synagogues to let them know what to bring to the pantry that month, such as apple juice, cereal, tuna, soup, vegetables and potatoes. We distribute 3 days worth of food to each family. We are a stop-gap when food stamps run out. In addition to food items given out each month, we also provide holiday food items, such as turkeys for Thanksgiving, potato latkes for Hanukkah and Passover food items. We are non-denominational. If someone is hungry and needs emergency food, we give it to them.”

“I started volunteering with my son for his Bar Mitzvah project back in October, 2000 and soon after, my daughter started coming with us. We were amazed at how many people in our ‘affluent’ county are food insecure. Today, there are over 43,000 people who are food insecure in Rockland County. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful husband and children and to have enough food, clothes and a nice place to live. It is important to give back to others in the community who are less fortunate.”

According to the website www.rocklandhunger.org , Rockland County Against Hunger (RCAH) brings together a network of food pantries, feeding programs, local food banks and social service agencies. The primary goal is to provide information about food sources and food-related services, raise awareness of hunger in Rockland County, mobilize resources and educate the community about food and nutrition. Over 200,000 meals are served every month by food pantries and feeding programs in the county. Hunger is defined as the lack of dependable access to enough food to sustain a healthy life. People who are food insecure are often forced to choose between paying for food and every day necessities, such as rent or health care. Children without adequate nutrition are more likely to have cognitive and behavioral development issues. About half of the people getting food do not qualify for federal nutrition programs and must rely on charitable food assistance. There are 43,800 people living in Rockland County who are below the poverty line (1 in 7) and that is up from 33,000 people just 2 years ago, a 25 percent increase. The number of people asking for help is increasing each year and that includes the working poor and middle class-people who never had to get food assistance before, the newly unemployed, the underemployed and families that have at least one parent working.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing economic hardship and is in need of food, please contact Kathryn Samalin / Rockland Jewish Family Service at (845) 354-2121 ext 140.

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