Feeding All Who Are Hungry | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Feeding All Who Are Hungry

Feeding All Who Are Hungry

The Borough Park location of Masbia set up for the seder last year / Courtesy Masbia

A look at the organizations feeding New York's hungry Jews this Passover

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While many of us are stocking up on Passover essentials, cleaning our homes, and planning elaborate meals, the elderly and needy homebound recipients of Citymeals on Wheels will be getting a box of eight shelf-stable kosher for Passover meals this week. The agency says that it will be delivering nearly 4,000 boxes across the five boroughs to New Yorkers unable to cook for themselves. Each box contains pre-made meals of chicken, turkey, beef goulash, brisket, stuffed cabbage, gefilte fish, grape juice, matzah, and coconut macaroons.

City Harvest, which "rescues" unused food from being disposed and redirects it to the hungry, estimates that more than 500,000 Jewish New Yorkers live below or only slightly above the poverty line.

The contents of a Citymeals on Wheels Passover box/ Courtesy Citymeals on Wheels 


The UJA, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and the Central Queens Y, is now providing digital Passover food-ordering programs at four of their food pantries, cutting down the waiting time that is typical for visitors of the pantries. A recipient is now able to place an order online, a volunteer will assemble his order at the pantry, where it will waiting to be picked up. The pantries are stocked with matzah, matzah ball mix, grape juice, chicken, eggs, tuna, and produce, ready to be crafted into festive meals. The UJA and Met Council are also hosting several opportunities for volunteers to package and distribute packages of Passover food.

Masbia, a local agency that runs a kosher food pantry and soup kitchen, will be cooking fresh food for Passover for the first time this year. They will be hosting two seders at their Borough Park location, and distributing pre-cooked meals at their newly renovated storefront in Queens for the chol hamoed middle days. Those who come to Masbia's seders, said Rabbi Alexander Rapaport, the organization's head noted, are truly alone, they were not invited to family or friends.

Masbia's food pantry, which has seen a large increase in demand, still operates in the old-fashioned manner without a digital interface, but has implemented a new, quicker system of group pickup appointments. Poverty-stricken members of synagogues communities, single mothers, and families with more than six members, are given unique time slots.

Masbia of Borough Park receiving produce and grape juice for Passover/ Courtesy Masbia 


City Harvest runs month-long kosher food drives between mid-February and mid-March. The food is then distributed to kosher soup kitchens, food pantries, and senior centers within the city. "We run food drives to meet increased need over the holidays, and we just completed our annual Passover food drive collecting thousands of pounds of nonperishable kosher food and kosher protein for Jewish families in need," noted Rebecca Glass, City Harvest's kosher food programs manager. Among City Harvest's Passover food drive recipients are Masbia and the Met Council.

While kosher food can cost two to three times more than non-kosher food, kosher for Passover food is typically even more expensive. The food cost alone isn't the sole concern on Passover. Rapaport remarked on increased staff costs as well, mentioning the overtime that will have to be paid for those working late at the seders.

There is a line in the Haggadah that says, "All who are hungry, let them come and eat." Accordingly, it is customary to not only welcome guests, but to donate to hungry Jews to ensure that they will have what to eat for Passover. Certainly these organizations are living up to this value.

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