As the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold in March, the repercussions soon became evident in Jewish neighborhoods. Job losses, furloughs, and other employment changes resulted in reduced incomes and serious financial challenges facing families who were previously self-sufficient. All of a sudden, food insecurity became a growing concern.
The Orthodox Union's Teach Coalition learned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provides free nutritious weekday lunches to schoolchildren of limited means, noted the rising unemployment figures and reduced the requirements for access to these meals. Teach Coalition staff in different states, seeing the growing need in the Jewish community, worked to make sure that kosher meals could also be provided in communities with observant Jewish populations. With the help of local elected officials, they contacted the appropriate government offices in the six states where the Teach Coalition is active (California, Florida, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) and arranged to extend the school lunches program to members of the Jewish community by obtaining kosher food.
In New Jersey, Teach NJ was fortunate to be able to build on the efforts of a few communities with sizable Jewish populations that had already partnered with their local public schools and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture,to set up kosher meals distributions. These towns—Deal, Lakewood, Passaic and Piscataway (for Edison and Highland Park)—served as the “proof of concept” that such distribution sites were essential to meet urgent community needs.
Teach NJ leaders strove to expand the number of kosher meal distribution sites in New Jersey by working closely with New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fischer, Assemblyman Gary Schaer, Assemblyman Chris Tully, Assemblywoman Lisa Swain and Bergenfield Council Member Ora Kornbluth. They also partnered with Jewish Federations throughout the state; schools like the Jewish Education Center in Elizabeth and Yeshiva He’Atid in Teaneck; and shuls such as the Young Israel of Cherry Hill and Congregation Sons of Israel in
“It was gratifying to work alongside so many dedicated individuals who spent hundreds of hours developing a comprehensive food delivery program serving families in Lakewood, Passaic-Clifton and later in Bergen County and other areas of New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Schaer. “I was pleased to introduce the volunteer organizers to the state’s secretary of the department of agriculture and to help cut through bureaucratic red tape so that families throughout New Jersey could be guaranteed nutritious kosher meals. Kudos to the many volunteers and groups which came together to bring this program to fruition.”
Due to the strong support of state and local officials, and Jewish community partners, Teach NJ is pleased to see newly established kosher meal distribution sites opening in Bergenfield, Cherry Hill, Elizabeth and Teaneck. Teach NJ is also working to open sites in Jersey City and Union City.
Teach NJ leaders and state officials anticipate a strong response to the kosher meal offerings in the new locations, estimating 1,000 participants in Bergenfield, 360 in Cherry Hill, 850 in Elizabeth, 350 in Jersey City, 3,000 in Teaneck and 300 in Union City.
Teach Coalition’s Director of State Political Affairs Dan Mitzner advised that “it’s important to note that the program is not based on income and we’ve seen that there is no stigma with income eligibility when it comes to picking up these meals,” adding that “for now, the program runs through the summer. As the state of the economy becomes clearer in the month ahead, we will have a better sense of the programs that will be available.”
Renee Klyman, grassroots director for Teach NJ, stated: “Teach NJ is proud to work with New Jersey government and other community organizations to provide nutritious kosher meals for people in these extraordinarily uncertain times. We are grateful to the many stakeholders and partners we’ve worked with to make this a reality.”
Bergenfield Councilwoman Kornbluth commented: “We were delighted to work with Teach NJ on this important project, to extend services to those who really need it. With so many families struggling socially, emotionally and financially, we saw how critical these meals could be to our communities and we did everything in our power to bring the meals to our Bergen County community members expediently.”
The addresses of the newly established kosher lunch distribution sites are:
- Bergenfield: Bergenfield HS, 80 S. Prospect Ave.
- Cherry Hill: 817 Cooper Landing Rd.
- Elizabeth: JEC/Bruriah HS, 35 North Ave.
- Teaneck: Yeshiva He’Atid, 1500 Queen Anne Road
- Union City: TBD
- Jersey City: TBD
Please check with your local distribution site for specific hours of operation by contacting: