A philanthropic challenge by the Manischewitz food company has turned into a windfall — make that a soup-fall — for the Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey food pantry.
Last month, the Newark-based corporation donated 500 cans of its kosher All-Natural Broths to JFS headquarters in Elizabeth. The donation culminated the company’s Fans for Cans program, which pledged 500 cans of soup for every 500 JFS supporters who signed up as Facebook “fans” of Manischewitz.
The company partnered with the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, and the challenge was announced at last December’s Super Sunday fund-raiser for the federation and its beneficiary agencies, including JFS.
The JFS donation follows similar gifts to the Cleveland Food Bank, the Jewish Federation in Dayton, Ohio, and the Island Harvest Food Bank on Long Island, NY.
The huge shipment to JFS included cans of chicken, reduced-sodium chicken, beef, and vegetable soups, just in time for the cooler temperatures of autumn.
With demand for its food aid higher than it has been in years, the soup was particularly welcome. Terry Willner-Tainow, JFS’s director of volunteer services, said that the number of households receiving the monthly food-assistance boxes has risen from 90 to 130. She has about 50 more on the waiting list, and another 50 people come in each month for emergency help.
“The demand has grown tremendously,” she said. “When I came seven years ago, we used to have about 75 households getting the boxes and hardly any on the waiting list.”
A few days after the delivery, volunteers gathered to pack food boxes for the needy, as they do each month.
Ruth Bilenker, who leads the crew of packers, welcomed the gift. “Usually, around the High Holy Days, we have some special extras to put in,” she said, “but this year, with the cutbacks, we’d had nothing to add.”
A donor did come forth at the last minute with one appropriate gift — bottles of honey, the traditional sweetener for the season.
Adina Abramov, the federation’s director of marketing and communications, helped forge the connection with Manischewitz and with JFS.
“The timing is excellent as well; the Manischewitz name is practically synonymous with American-Jewish tradition, and I am sure the soups will be enjoyed by many this High Holy Day season,” she said.
The chairs of this year’s Super Sunday — Sandy Sobol and Meredith Levy — and their committee have just started planning for the big phonathon, to be held Dec. 4. As usual, the event will include a range of activities for all ages, including Israel-oriented programs led by the new community shaliah, entertainment, teen projects, hallah baking, and Hanukka crafts. And there will be other opportunities to help JFS.
In the weeks before and leading up to the day, food and diapers will also be collected outside area supermarkets. On Super Sunday itself, participants can bring food, toys, books, and household and personal care items to the Wilf campus in Scotch Plains. Willner-Tainow said, “With government funds cut and so many people out of work, we need the support from the community more than ever.”