Some families came because it’s become a tradition for them, others were eager for a new experience, and yet others just happened to be shopping at the ShopRite in Clark or the Greater Morristown ShopRite in Cedar Knolls and spotted a chance to help the hungry.
Sunday, March 8, was Community Supermarket Sweep day in the Greater MetroWest community, when people shop for supplies — everyday items and some Passover extras, too — to fill the shelves of the kosher food pantries run by Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey in Elizabeth, and by the Bobrow Kosher Food Pantry at Oheb Shalom Congregation in South Orange.
About 135 people took part, and spent a total of $5,800 on donated purchases.
The event was organized by the Center for Volunteerism of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, in conjunction with ShopRite. It was chaired by Elyse Deutsch and Janice Weinberg, who initiated the project five years ago in the Central community, working together this year with Mariela Markelis Dybner and Becky Freeman. Dybner lives in Maplewood; the other three are Scotch Plains residents.
While Weinberg welcomed participants and helped kids choose prizes for their efforts, Deutsch put to work the strategies to help supporters stretch their donations.
The organizers emphasized that donations — of food or money — are needed all year. The most important items for the food banks are tuna fish, peanut butter, dry or evaporated milk, and canned soups; nonperishable items such as canned vegetables, beans, boxed pasta, cereals, jam and jelly, and crackers are also welcome. Kosher-for-Passover items such as grape juice, tuna fish, applesauce, matza, and gefilte fish as well as canned soups, fruits, and vegetables were also requested, with a limit of one item per family.
Volunteerism center chair Maxine Schwartz of Westfield was helping to sign in shoppers in Clark, while her sons were working the aisles, gathering items on the list of needed products.
“This isn’t just a one-off thing. This is a continuation of our End Hunger Campaign, and the Community Challah Bake,”she said, referring to the federation Community Relations Committee’s year-long drive to combat hunger and food insecurity in the state. The effort also included the Food Stamp Challenge, which had dozens of community members and local political leaders striving to live with the limitations faced by food pantry clients.
“Every year we hear about more and more people having trouble feeding their families,” Deutsch said.
Her cochair Dybner underlined another aspect that has made the Community Supermarket Sweep a tradition in the community — that in addition to helping the needy, the event provides a chance to give children a tangible experience of doing good.
David Brooks, a past president of JFS of Central NJ, was at the Clark ShopRite with his daughter Alexis. “We just do it now every year,” she said with a smile.