By Stephanie Bolmer
On Sunday, Sept. 22, Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley hosted a grand re-opening of their newly expanded and renovated Community Food Pantry. The project started in June with the tearing down of a wall to double the size of the pantry, and construction was completed in August.
The crowd of over 50 JFS board members, LIFE & LEGACY supporters and other community members were greeted with refreshments from Around the Table Catering, the first kosher food truck in the Lehigh Valley. They were able to tour the newly refurbished pantry, where there were posters highlighting interesting facts about the work of JFS on display. When everyone was gathered, JFS Community Impact Coordinator Rebecca Axelrod-Cooper started things off by introducing JFS executive director Debbie Zoller.
“I am really so thrilled to have all of you here,” said Zoller, “and this would not happen without all of you being supportive of Jewish Family Service, so we thank you every day and for everything you do.”
State Rep. Mike Schlossberg was in attendance to present a proclamation.“It’s very important that this food location is here to help not just the Jewish community, but the community at large,” said Schlossberg. He emphasized the importance of the JFS food pantry, sharing how 30 percent of the residents of Allentown live in poverty, and 90 percent of the children in the Allentown School District live with some sort of poverty or food insecurity issues.
Schlossberg then cut the giant blue ribbon adorning a wall of fully stocked shelves along with Zoller, JFS Food Pantry Coordinator Sharon Gayner and U.S. Rep. Susan Wild. At this, the onlookers packed into the pantry broke into singing “Siman Tov u’Mazal tov.” Then, the crowd moved into the JFS board room, where it was standing room only to hear Wild, introduced by Axelrod-Cooper and JFS President Rabbi Allen Juda, speak on the issue of food insecurity in the Lehigh Valley and answer questions about the broader concern nationally.
“I feel like I should really be applauding all of you, and particularly the staff here at Jewish Family Service. Food matters have always been really important to me,” said Wild. “The idea of any family, any parent struggling to put food on the table, any children going to school and not being properly nourished, is something that literally can keep me awake at night, and I have a feeling there are a lot of people in this room who feel the same way.”
She congratulated JFS for expanding the pantry at a challenging time when government resources for social services have been dwindling.
“I believe that our Jewish values are the universal values that can guide us out of the darkness and into the light, and this place exemplifies that,” added Wild.
With the pantry’s renovation, it has now increased its dry and cold storage, which will enable JFS to expand its service area and hours to more people in need in the Lehigh Valley.