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The Tuna Tower Challenge: Supporting the Fair Lawn Food Pantry

Fair Lawn—It’s easy to think everyone is doing fine in Bergen County, but unfortunately, there are plenty of people in our community who could use a helping hand.

Joanne Oppenheim, a member of Ahavat Achim in Fair Lawn, was flipping through the local paper. She saw an announcement that the local food pantry was running low on supplies. “It bothered me that people in our neighborhood don’t have enough to eat,” she told the Jewish Link. Oppenheim was so bothered that she decided to do something about it, but then thought, “Why not involve the shul?”

After an email to Rabbi Uri Goldstein, who was all for supporting the food bank, Oppenheim got to thinking how best to help. She settled on the Ahavat Achim Tisha B’Av Tuna Tower Challenge. On Tisha B’Av afternoon, the children of Ahavat Achim would build a tower from the donated tuna and then bring the cans to the Fair Lawn food bank the next day. “I wanted it to be fun for the kids. I also think that as part of Tisha B’Av, it’s good to do extra mitzvot.”

Liz Maresca Twiggs works for Fair Lawn Human Services as the coordinator of the food pantry. When Joanne mentioned the tuna tower, she thought it was a great idea. “Building the tower gives kids a chance to get involved. Plus, every little bit helps.” Twiggs added that summer is especially challenging for the food bank as the bulk of the donations occur in the fall and around the holidays. The stock lessens in spring and gets very low in the summer. Twiggs chalked up the slow times to people being pre-occupied with other things.

The food bank serves approximately 30 families per month plus those who walk in randomly. Regulars receive a bag of food per week which Twiggs estimates is worth $40. The clients’ situations vary as does their time of need. No matter the situation, the food bank is there to help. All the food distributed is either donated or purchased with donated gift cards. Twiggs appreciates the donors. “You can be in town, but when you take care of the people around you, that makes you part of the community.” Shul president Stephen Agress added, “We are pleased to be able to contribute to the good work that the Fair Lawn Food Pantry does.”

Oppenheim believes Fair Lawn is a great place to live, and “there’s room to care for all types of organizations, and we care about the town beyond Ahavat Achim.” Tuna Tower to the rescue!

Larry and his family are Bergen County residents. Visit his website at http://larrydbernstein.com/

By Larry Bernstein

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