On Wednesday, March 14, Jewish Family & Children’s Services held a ceremony to celebrate the completion of a new food pantry located at their agency in Fair Lawn. JFCS leadership were joined by Fair Lawn mayor Lisa Swain, elected officials and community rabbis, as CEO Susan Greenbaum, cut the honorary ribbon marking the official opening of the much-anticipated pantry.
The pantry will satisfy a tremendous need for clients of JFCS who reside in or near the Fair Lawn section of northern New Jersey. Fifteen families have already expressed interest in visiting the pantry and JFCS has yet to spread the word through advertisement or social media.
“Frequently the food pantry is the first point of entry for clients who need assistance. It allows us to then work with them on other issues that require attention,” said Greenbaum. “Because we are a multi-service agency we are able to help people in a much bigger way.” JFCS offers clients financial aid and advocacy as well as career services and readiness training for employment.
JFCS is primarily a mental health agency, yet the services they provide are all-encompassing. There can be many factors that contribute to a client’s mental health problem, and food insecurity is often one of them. “It is easy in northern New Jersey to dismiss the idea of food insecurity as we are surrounded by affluence throughout our communities. However, the issue is real and is most often hidden in plain sight,” expressed Greenbaum. Poverty within our local communities is a widespread problem that often goes undisclosed for many reasons.
The pantry is stocked with a large assortment of non-perishable foods as well as cleaning supplies and personal care products that are unattainable through food stamps, making it even more difficult for many to purchase. The pantry also offers a variety of Israeli products to accommodate the large Israeli population living in Fair Lawn. With Passover right around the corner, the pantry will supply specialty items for the holiday as well. The pantry will be open to clients by appointment only and will offer those who visit the opportunity to explore the provisions in a private and dignified manner.
“We truly respect the privacy of our clients,” explained Ellen Finkelstein, JFCS director of marketing. “It is difficult for many to come to a food pantry and we make sure clients can do so without the concern of seeing others coming or going,” she added. Furthermore, at JFCS, clients are able to shop the shelves for what they need, in contrast to most food pantries that provide each visitor a general bag of groceries.
Food is a basic essential that many of us often take for granted. We don’t even think about the significance of what it means to have what we need in the way of food. Unfortunately, there are many people living amongst us who don’t have the same sense of security. “I am proud we are able to open this pantry and serve the community. We recognize that there are many who need our services and JFCS wants them to know we are here to help in any way we can,” commented Shira Feuerstein, president of the board of directors.
At JFCS the goal is to care for the entire family. Through a program called the birthday box, a child celebrating a birthday will receive a box complete with paper goods, candles and other essentials necessary to make a party. Additionally, JFCS works with local vendors who provide certificates entitling the child to pizza and birthday cake, allowing for an enjoyable party when the financial means to do so might not be available.
JFCS helps over 800 clients a year with more than 50 percent being under the age of 18. The senior population is the second-largest group of people receiving invaluable services from JFCS that include homecare visits, kosher meals on wheels and care management. Over 350 of the seniors living in local communities are Holocaust survivors and count on JFCS to help manage their daily living.
JFCS is blessed with many generous donors that include local congregations, schools and the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. They are also extremely grateful to individuals who have offered time and money to enhance the services they provide. Through increased community support JFCS believes many more people can be helped. To learn more please visit www.jfcsnnj.org.