JFS Perspectives

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Weinberg Food Pantry: A Lifeline for People in Need



The Weinberg Food Pantry: A Lifeline for People in Need

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Food Pantry is one of JFS’s most visible programs, and one of the most impactful. Hundreds of people in our community rely on the pantry to meet one of life’s most basic needs—food. What started as a kosher pantry serving Russian Jewish refugees in 1991 has grown into a vital community resource that serves more than 3,200 people and distributes 662,000 pounds of food each year. The pantry is open to all people, regardless of faith, race, age, or ability.

Food Pantry timeline

The Weinberg Food Pantry’s mission is twofold. First and foremost, it exists to fight hunger and food insecurity in our community by providing healthy, nutritious food to those in need. Second, it is a critical component in JFS’s commitment to prevent homelessness for people in crisis. For some, the pantry helps people weather an emergency. For others, it provides supplemental food to make ends meet without sacrificing a family’s health and well-being.

It is a “choice” pantry that allows clients to choose the foods they want. According to pantry coordinator Gabe Moe-Lobeda, the pantry strives to be more than simply a source of food, but a dignified experience where all feel welcome and are never judged. “Staff and volunteers work hard to provide exceptional service and ensure that our clients feel welcome, comfortable, and respected,” he says. “We meet them where they are and work to fulfill whatever needs they may have.”

The pantry is often a point of entry to JFS, and many of its clients are referred to other JFS programs, including mental health, senior solutions, employment support, and emergency financial assistance. Likewise, many JFS staff members from other departments refer their clients to the pantry if they have a need.

Pantry Who We Serve

The pantry is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. For working families, the pantry is open on the second Thursday of the month from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. The pantry is closed on holidays, including most Jewish holidays.

To access the pantry, first-time clients should call 720.248.4716 to set up an intake appointment. To qualify, applicants must meet income requirements and they can then access the pantry 12 times in the following year, at their discretion.

The pantry provides a nutritionally balanced supply of food that is expected to last five to seven days.

  • Fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, frozen meat, and breads are almost always available to supplement canned and packaged foods.
  • Shelf-stable food, such as canned goods, pasta, and packaged goods, are always available.
  • Baby food, infant formula, and diapers are distributed when available.
  • Toiletries and other Supplies of Daily Living (SDLs) are offered when available.
  • Pet food is offered monthly through Colorado Pet Pantry.
  • The pantry serves as a site for food commodity distribution to seniors through collaboration with Food Bank of the Rockies and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). 

Fresh, Healthy Food

Thanksgiving

The Weinberg Food Pantry strives to provide clients the highest-quality food possible and is committed to offer a broad assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meats, and breads. Seasonal fresh-grown produce is provided by Ekar Farm, Denver Urban Gardens, and Samuels Elementary School, which grows produce in its community garden and donates much of its harvest to the pantry. Several local gardeners donate what they can to the pantry. In addition, JFS partners with Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Sprouts to provide quality produce, bread, dairy products, and even flowers. The pantry is well-known by other agencies for its high-quality produce and fresh foods.

Special Programs

In addition to regular food distribution, the Weinberg Food Pantry offers a number of special programs to help clients celebrate holidays with dignity. There are special food distributions at Thanksgiving and Passover, as well as gifts for the holidays through the Bright Holidays program. The pantry offers frequent cooking demonstrations to help clients make the most of the food they receive.

How You Can Help

Donate Funds

The majority of the food distributed in the pantry is purchased from Food Bank of the Rockies, which makes food available to area food pantries at a fraction of retail cost—just $.70 a pound. For this reason, monetary donations to the pantry are preferred over food donations, although food is always welcome. Cash donations can be used to purchase more food at a lower cost, plus staff has the flexibility to purchase those items most needed at any given time. You can donate to the Weinberg Food Pantry online or contact Tracy Altman, development director, at 720.248.4659.

Donate Food

The Weinberg Food Pantry can always use donations of nonperishable food and household items to distribute to our neighbors in need. Items in highest demand are protein (canned tuna, chicken, and salmon and dried beans), canned fruits and vegetables, 100% juice, oatmeal/whole-grain cereal, and carbohydrates (whole wheat pasta, macaroni and cheese, brown rice). Toilet paper, diapers (sizes 4, 5, and 6), and baby wipes are always needed. Food donations can be dropped at JFS during regular business hours. Consider organizing a food drive at your synagogue, church, school, or business. For more information on food donations, contact Gabe Moe-Lobeda at 720.248.4620.

Volunteer

The Weinberg Food Pantry is a volunteer-driven program. Two staff members work with a core group of 48 volunteers who donated more than 4,300 hours to the pantry last year. Another 220 individuals volunteered as members of corporate, civic, school, and synagogue groups sorting food, stocking shelves, and doing various tasks to help the pantry. Families and other groups can pitch in by creating meal bags, bundling diapers, and putting together toiletry packs for families. Check out our volunteer opportunities or contact Nancy Benyamin, director of Volunteer Services, at 720.248.4642 for more information.


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