Dipping apples and honey, savoring a thick slice of warm, raisin challah, I think about how blessed I am to celebrate a new year; healthy, happy, and sharing a delicious, fresh meal with loved ones. I also think about my neighbors that do not have access to food, especially nutritionally dense food, nor access to basic supports, including healthcare and quality education.
Serving in leadership positions, and now as a consultant for local and national nonprofits, I am faced with striking statistics about the state of our nation and the vast needs abroad. A recent report published by Feeding America shows that hunger in the United States remains an urgent crisis, despite progress during the pandemic. “The report found more than 8 in 10 (81%) neighbors facing hunger believe that inflation and food prices have exacerbated hunger in America, with 9 in 10 (93%) saying they are concerned the situation may worsen.” Locally, the Arizona Food Bank Network reports that despite Arizona producing 12% of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, 1 in 7 Arizonans struggle with food insecurity.
The Southern Arizona Jewish community is continuing the tradition of Project Isaiah. As a teen, I remember collecting food in the Anshei Israel parking lot, and loading heavy bags of donated goods brought by congregants into the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona’s truck alongside dozens of United Synagogue Youth members, 25 years later, I have the privilege to still be engaged in Project Isaiah; first when I served as COO of Jewish Philanthropies of Southern Arizona (JPSA) and now as a nonprofit consultant supporting organizations, including the Community Food Bank. I am thrilled that there are 13 organizations participating in Project Isaiah (four more than last year!) and that there are multiple drop off points for food donations, from local congregations to JPSA’s beneficiary agencies (i.e., the Tucson J, Jewish Family & Children’s Services, Tucson Hebrew Academy (THA), and the Tucson Jewish Museum & Holocaust Center). In addition to donating nonperishables, it is easy to give a financial contribution to Project Isaiah. With a reported 20% increase in local demand, your donation will allow the Community Food Bank to provide five meals for every dollar donated.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the National Food Bank of Israel, Leket Israel. Having worked for Feeding America for 10 years, it was incredible to visit my first food bank abroad. Even better, I was joined by Danielle Faitelson, my childhood best friend, who made Aliyah five years ago. Having attended THA together and jointly volunteered for Project Isaiah, it was especially meaningful to visit Leket together. Leket focuses on collecting and harvesting high-quality, fresh food surpluses (including safe to consume, unused cooked meals), and distributing them across Israel. In short, they are focused on sourcing and gleaning fruits and vegetables, to ensure individuals and families have access to nutritious food. During our visit, Danielle and I had the privilege to meet several of Leket’s leaders, take a tour of their main facility, and meet with dozens of volunteers, including members of the Israel Defense Forces who were sorting fresh produce boxes. I know as I support Project Isaiah locally, I will also be supporting Leket Israel this holiday season.
Seeing my worlds collide (anti-hunger and Jewish community-based nonprofits) was impactful and energizing. Whether it is in my desert hometown or the desert home state of my people, incredible work is underway, led by dedicated professionals, generous volunteers, philanthropic donors, and communities coming together to ensure that we all have access to healthy food.
L’Shana Tova Tikatevu (Have a good and sweet year)!
Lindsey can be reached at email@example.com.