Young Chicago Jews come together to fight hunger

Some 100 young Jewish adults volunteered on April 6 for Feed Chicago, a citywide day of service providing food assistance to people in need of all faiths, hosted by the Jewish United Fund’s Young Leadership Division and TOV Network.

Held the week before Passover, Feed Chicago served as the culminating event of JUF’s Hunger Awareness Project, a year-long initiative to raise awareness and mobilize volunteers in the area of hunger and food insecurity.

FEED Chicago 2014

Sam Berry (center) and fellow volunteers help clean and organize the food pantry at Connections for the Homeless.

“On Passover, we say ‘Let all who are hungry come and eat,” said Ellen Hattenbach, Chair of the Hunger Awareness Project. “Feed Chicago was a truly meaningful opportunity for young adults in our community to live that beautiful Jewish value as we prepare for the holiday.”

With 12 projects taking place from dawn to dusk throughout the city and suburbs, thousands of people in need were impacted by day’s end. From stocking food pantries and delivering groceries to cooking and serving meals for people in need, the volunteers all made a significant impact at their service sites.

"Feed Chicago was a tremendous opportunity for young adults around Chicago to give back to their community,” said Sam Berry, who helped clean the food pantry at Connections for the Homeless. My friends and I had a valuable experience donating to, organizing, and cleaning Connections for the Homeless in Evanston. It was truly rewarding to see the positive impact that we had on the shelter through our work on Sunday afternoon."

JUF’s partner organization sites included: A Just Harvest, the ARK, Breakthrough Ministries, Chicago Chesed Fund, Connections for the Homeless, Franciscan Outreach Association, Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.), Lincoln Park Community Shelter, Maot Chitim and The Center for Enriched Living.

“We had 12 individuals come in to help in our food pantry – they brought some food which they quickly got to work weighing and sorting onto the shelves and then completed a deep clean of the food pantry -  sweeping, mopping and sanitizing the entire area,” said JoBeth Hamon, Volunteer Manager at Connections for the Homeless. “They also noticed we were low on certain items in the pantry and took it upon themselves to make a trip to the grocery store to buy additional donations. Altogether, the group donated 190 pounds of food! We couldn’t provide services for our clients without volunteer groups that help, and it has been a pleasure to work with JUF’s Feed Chicago volunteers because they always bring a particular energy and enthusiasm to their work.”

The biannual day of service is just one small part of the JUF’s year-round efforts to fight hunger. Approximately 4,100 Jews in Chicago are sustained through daily or weekly JUF-funded food programs. In 2013, JUF agencies provided local Jews in need with 469,088 meals, food packages and grocery cards.

“Because the boxes can be heavy—especially the ones with two or three frozen chickens—having young, physically strong volunteers was especially important,” said Caroline Musin Berkowitz, Director of Volunteers and Outreach at The ARK. “Thank you to our excellent Feed Chicago volunteers! We’d be delighted to have them come back at any time.”

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