Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and volunteers with the Met Council packed Passover supplies for those in need.
Passover begins on March 27, but for many Jewish families who are unable to afford food on a daily basis, finding kosher supplies for their Passover Seder will be a struggle. The pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity, leaving those with specific dietary needs to fall through the cracks of city and state distribution programs.
On March 14, Williams joined the Met Council at 171 Lexington Avenue, where they scrambled about swiftly packing Seder plates, candles, and other items ready to be delivered to those who are currently struggling amidst the declining financial climate. This is one of 183 sites where kosher meals are being packed for a wide variety of individuals. During the morning hours, volunteers packed meals for Hunter and Baruch College students, and that afternoon they prepared Passover supplies for victims of domestic violence.
The Public Advocate is adamant about getting a first-hand look at the various issues communities are facing, especially when it comes to dietary needs. Since last year, Williams says he has seen the endless lines at food pantries, and he finds the sheer number of individuals suffering from food insecurity “unfathomable” in New York.
“This is a very important time. Today we do a lot of things around food, food insecurity in particular, especially during the pandemic. The pandemic hasn’t created anything. It’s made everything worse, especially now with the coming holidays like Passover, and people might feel the loneliness even more,” Williams told amNewYork Metro.
Halal and kosher food are not often at the forefront of meal distribution locations, and organizations like the Met Council, the largest Jewish Communal Social Safety Net in America, have been working to fill that need.
“Especially when it comes to kosher and halal, the federal government, in particular, hasn’t done much and here in the city, thankfully, there has been some organizations that can fill that gap, but it’s not enough. When you have organizations and the federal government sending out food and sending out meat, no one is thinking halal, and no one is thinking about kosher. You have religious and dietary needs that we need to think about. People are going hungry, and the thing that pains me the most is that we actually have the ability to prevent that and so we should,” Williams said.
Leah Nomkin, the Program Manager of Emergency Food and Fulfillment Center at the Met Council, shared that they usually distribute about 7 million pounds of food; however, since the dawn of the pandemic, this amount has increased to about 20 million pounds of food.
“We’ve seen how much we are able to meet that demand and distribute more and more food to people who need it. The work that some of my colleagues did during the peak of the pandemic, over the spring of last year, it was absolutely incredible. Everybody pushed through and strived to give food to anybody who was asking for it,” Nomkin said.
All of those receiving meals are clients of the Met Council. They are given a login and password to the organization’s website, where they can view a monthly menu and choose the food, they would like to have delivered to them.