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Feeding the Soul on Yom Kippur

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap all the way to the edges of your field or gather the gleaning of your harvest… but leave them for the poor and the stranger.”  Leviticus 19:9-10.

When my kids were younger they sometimes got confused about what food was associated what Jewish holiday. For example at the Passover seder, we eat charoset to remind us of the mortar that slaves used to build pyramids; on Rosh Hashanah, we dip apples in honey for a sweet New Year; on Hanukkah, we fry latkes to symbolize the miracle of oil; and every other time of the year we seem to slurp matzo ball soup because, well, it’s tradition, and it tastes so dang good.

But on Yom Kippur, my children are kind of bummed because we are supposed to eat NOTHING for 24 hours, from sundown to sundown. On this holiest day of the year the Torah tells us to practice self-denial. It’s a time to ignore our physical wants and to concentrate on spiritual needs by spending time in tefilah (prayer) and teshuvah (repentance).  Then, of course, we break the fast with a dairy feast of blintzes, creamed cheese and bagels, egg soufflé, cottage cheese kugle, marble cakes, and, for some reason, pickled herring that repulse all but a few family members.

I tell my kids that a growling, empty belly is a temporary feeling of deprivation, but for nearly 50 million Americans hunger is a frightening reality. In fact, nearly five percent of all U.S. households accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times. Unemployment, rather than poverty, is a strong predictor of food insecurity, and in St. Louis, one out of eight families report an insecure amount of food. That’s why doing an act of tzedakah at the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry is so important. Especially during the Days of Awe, which ends on Yom Kippur, what better act of kindness is there on this holiday (and throughout the year) than to help feed the soul?

Families can do just that by volunteering at the Jewish Food Pantry, which is scheduled for a grand reopening celebration on October 21 at its new 22,000-square-foot warehouse/office at 10601 Baur Boulevard in Creve Coeur, less than one mile from its current home. In addition to a ribbon cutting ceremony, families will enjoy live entertainment, tours, crafts, activities, and plenty of opportunities to learn how they can make a difference to fight hunger.

The Jewish Food Pantry opened in 1991 to serve clients of all faiths and backgrounds and is today one of the largest food pantries in Missouri serving more than 5,515 families in 2011, comprising 15,903 individuals who would otherwise go hungry without our help. In fact, last year, the food pantry helped distribute more than 1,484,832 food and personal care items to clients from 110 different zip codes throughout the St. Louis Metropolitan area, including 1,821 new families. Plus, they delivered a nutritious variety of food to more than 5,964 homebound frail elderly and disabled adults. The pantry provides enough food to supplement a household for 7 to 10 days.

Now, with an expanded facility along the way, the demand for food donations and volunteers is greater than ever.

“Volunteers are the core of our agency, and are always needed and welcomed,” said Donald Meissner, Community Outreach Coordinator. “There are many ways to help us nourish our neighbors in need by volunteering, or holding a food drive at your school, religious institution, or company. “

Volunteers must be at least 10 years old and are needed to sort, stock, and pack food items for quick and easy distribution. They usually work a two to three hour shift during the pantry hours:

Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays hours vary.

For more information, call Kelly Mueller, volunteer coordinator, at 314-812-9386, or kmueller@jfcs-stl.org

What to donate:

Hearty soup, canned meat and fish, canned vegetables, mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, instant potatoes, canned fruit, pasta, beef stew, dried beans, healthy cereals, detergent, baby formula, diapers, bar soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, etc.