The Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition announced the reopening of the kosher meal distribution program for children in multiple locations across New Jersey. So far, Fair Lawn and Teaneck will be the first local locations available. Fair Lawn will distribute on Wednesdays from 4pm to 8pm at Memorial Middle School (12-00 First Street). The Teaneck location will distribute Thursday from 12pm to 6pm at Temple Emeth in Teaneck (1666 Windsor Road). While Teach Coalition is not managing the Passaic site, that location is 181 Pennington, Passaic and distribution will take place Thursdays at 6pm (visit https://passaicfood.com/). Other sites are expected to open up throughout the state in the coming week.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the kosher USDA food boxes are completely free and open to all families with children ages 1-18, regardless of religion or financial status. The waivers are available to all states without needing approval, but the state agencies still need to opt in and then need to decide how much flexibility to grant in their state.
Supplies are limited, so parents are advised to come early if possible. There is no registration link as registration is not required at this time. There are no walk-ups allowed; boxes are distributed to cars in a no-contact drive-through process only.
According to the Executive Director of Teach NJ, Teach Coalition’s New Jersey group, Katie Katz, “The Keep Kids Fed Act and the United States Department of Agriculture issued the necessary waivers allowing states to let operators distribute food boxes to families. The USDA is opening the food boxes up to everyone without checking income level.”
Katz also explained that the food collection will function exactly how the program functioned during the early days of the pandemic; families should let the operator know how many children they have. Food pickup, through a drive-through-car-line, happens once a week, in which families are provided with two meals (breakfast and lunch) for a full week, for each of their children.
The program initially expired and suspended activity at the end of August 2021. Teach Coalition partnered with local communities to deliver more than 3 million meals served in New York, 1.2 million in Florida, 1 million in New Jersey, and 500,000 in Pennsylvania, according to then Teach Coalition Director Maury Litwack last year. Litwack is now managing director of the Orthodox Union.
Teach Coalition is an advocacy group providing targeted lobbying for day school students and assistance in six states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida and California. These states represent 90% of Jewish day schools students nationwide. The services through the USDA food box program are most crucial to the many communities that are impacted by the rising gas and food prices. “It’s obviously a very challenging time for people and the Keep Kids Fed act recognizes that. This bill provides flexibility, funding, and support so that children can have healthy meals throughout the summer,” Katz said.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Teach Coalition stepped in to help set up kosher meal sites for observant communities because the only local options available at the time did not supply kosher food. Teach Coalition does not operate the food sites; their role was to support local operators in managing the government process so that food sites could be established in various communities. The sites themselves are run by local operators who select the caterer and oversee logistics. Food was organized, purchased, cooked and boxed by local caterers who also staffed the drive-through-car-lines, and they were then reimbursed by the government.
Katz shared that the initial work done to establish these sites during the pandemic, which was “challenging and required a lot of navigation.” The process this summer should be much simpler and will continue the way it did before.
Rina Shamilov is an intern for the Jewish Link and a Brooklyn native. She is studying English Literature at Stern College for Women.