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National Emergency Food Program

This week we would like to highlight our Emergency Food Programs and its myriad of volunteers at the various locations throughout the country.

When the effects of Covid hit in March 2020 numerous food drive programs closed throughout cities including local synagogue programs.

The vulnerable sectors of our communities were greatly impacted by all the closures. Seniors without support systems and those who were unable to leave their homes were left in a desolate situation. Who was going to help sustain this demographic, of whom many are veterans and Holocaust survivors?

B’nai Brith recognized the deficit and impact that Covid induced and sought a way to offer assistance and support. Not only were the Seniors now going to receive food, but they were also going to experience some form of social interaction. Both of which were not accessible, as a direct result of the pandemic.

Many concerned individuals became dedicated volunteers who would assist in the various tasks needed to maintain the Emergency Food Programs that emerged due to an increasing need. Each city required volunteers in different capacities. Some cities needed volunteers to aid in the shopping while all cities required more volunteers to support the packing of individual boxes and another set of volunteers to deliver the boxes to the recipients.

Everyone who stepped forward were rewarded with a sense of accomplishment for providing their community with a meaningful contribution. Meeting new people from varied backgrounds was inevitable along with the feeling of satisfaction.

Those that delivered the boxes, were also fortunate to form connections and build a rapport with the recipients they saw on a weekly basis.

At the present time, Toronto has the largest clientele of food box recipients. It started with 40 households in need and has now grown to 140 families. There are 40 volunteers who are each delivering 4-6 boxes weekly.

Montreal currently has 24 households receiving boxes and has 4 volunteers handling the weekly deliveries. All the boxes are packed with items that are nutritious staples for a healthy diet.

Alberta’s community is assisting 11 households with biweekly food boxes. All the clients are referred through Jewish Family Service and local synagogues. While this community has some dedicated volunteers to help with the shopping, it only has one volunteer to assist with the deliveries.

There are 20 recipients in Winnipeg, some struggling with rapidly rising costs and are grateful for the assistance this program provides. Flyers from major supermarkets are searched for quality products at affordable prices.

One of our committed volunteers in Toronto, Ellen, was inspired by many of B’nai Brith’s social media posts. Ellen said, “The best way to get through a crisis like a pandemic is to get involved and help those who are most vulnerable.” She continued by adding, “the food deliveries brought me tremendous joy and satisfaction.”

Ellen has been volunteering for 2.5 years. Recently she has informed B’nai Brith that due to other commitments, she will need to put an end to the fulfilling work she has been doing. Ellen bonded with many of the seniors, of whom most speak Russian and she wanted to inform them of her departure and wish them well. She wrote a farewell letter which she had translated into Russian and delivered it along with her food boxes.

This devotion is what our volunteers all have in common. B’nai Brith’s food programs in Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, and Alberta are currently in need of volunteers who can commit approximately 2 hours a week to continue the initiative of delivering these much-needed items. All the programs continue to grow as the need in their communities grow and we want to be able to fulfill the demand.

Our volunteers are a diverse group of people, from students to professionals to retirees. Parents have also brought their children along when needed. What better way to teach the importance of giving back then seeing it firsthand!

If you want to make an impact in your Jewish community, follow the link to our Volunteer Hub and see what opportunities are available in your city.

Here is what some of our volunteers and recipients had to say:

“Delivering the food items is one of the highlights of my week. It is great to meet ‘my’ families and see how they are doing. It is such a privilege to be able to help others and make their lives a little easier.” – Ellen S

“About two months ago, after 25 years of comfortable and busy retirement, I was still quite healthy and felt the need to expand my horizon, my experiences, my knowledge, and my understanding. When B’nai Brith advertised for once-a-week volunteer drivers, I applied. After a couple of weeks, I had three regular clients. My first reaction in delivering the groceries was that I was thankful for the financial and mental support that I have. It gave me a perspective that I usually take for granted. It has been a very pleasant weekly learning experience for me, one that has made me a better, more considerate, more understanding and happier person.” – Jonathan U

“When an e-mail arrived in my in-box from B’nai Brith at the beginning of Covid asking for volunteers to deliver food boxes to vulnerable seniors, I knew it was my calling to volunteer with this program. Even though, most of the recipients I deliver to do not speak English; we have found a way to communicate with each other with loving gestures and a little help from Google translate! It makes me realize that we all want to give to others and through giving to others we all grow and flourish. Thank-you, B’nai Birth, for this opportunity.” – Dorothy A