Hundreds of women came together on March 14, 2021 at Connections, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s (JFSA) signature Women’s Philanthropy event, to honor the Jewish community’s continued philanthropic work and address the growing problem of food insecurity in Southern Arizona in ways both big and small.
After a year unlike any other, hunger is an issue weighing heavily on many minds. Feeding America projects that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 1 in 6 people in America will experience food insecurity during 2021. In Pima County, hunger is especially devastating to young families—even before the pandemic, over 20% of children in Pima County lived in food-insecure households. From the Project Isaiah High Holidays food drive to a $25,000 Jewish Community Pandemic Relief Fund distribution to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, the JFSA and the Jewish community have contributed to major efforts to address hunger in our community. The Connections planning committee knew that many in attendance at this year’s event felt personally moved to do more.
Traditionally, Connections has involved a donation drive for a local nonprofit, and this year’s co-chairs wanted to partner with Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS).
“We know that the work Jewish Family and Children’s Services provides the community is unique in that they touch many aspects of their client’s lives. It was really neat to know that our effort would be just one part of the services their clients receive, providing them with the dignity of having their needs met in a more holistic way,” said Connections co-chair Dana Goldstein.
JFCS offers trauma-informed counseling for more than 800 low-income individuals and through their Jewish Emergency Financial Assistance/LEAF program, they have provided food, supplemental shelter, utility assistance, and other essentials to 400 families in just the past year alone. When Connections co-chairs reached out to Susan Kasle, JFCS Vice President of Community Services, she immediately suggested a donation fund that could be used to purchase grocery cards for food-insecure clients as a meaningful, COVID-safe way to meet immediate community needs.
“Grocery cards that function like cash are an efficient, contactless way to expand the agency’s ability to help clients attain essential items,” said Susan, “This need is only growing as the Pandemic continues to impact financial stability. JFCS’ clients are so grateful for the assistance that has been provided through JFSA’s Connections 2021 fundraising efforts.”
The response to this request for donations was overwhelming. Thus far, Connections registrants have raised over $4,000 which will be used to buy gift cards for grocery stores that JFCS clients use most.
“It was important to us to create an opportunity for the women of our community to give back in a way that resonated with them. The idea that any child goes hungry is extremely distressing. The freedom that a food card provides—to select foods that feel culturally relevant and comforting in whatever way a client might feel is important felt particularly meaningful to us,” said Connections co-chair Karen Faitelson. “We are thankful for all of the donations we’ve seen to this worthwhile cause”