B’nai Brith Feeds the Hungry During COVID

By SUSAN MINUK – July 2, 2020

When COVID kicked in, B’nai Brith Canada kicked back.

When the pandemic put Toronto on lockdown, B’nai Brith worked fast to create an emergency food drive to feed the Jewish community’s most vulnerable: Seniors, those in poverty, Holocaust survivors, veterans, shut-ins and those with disabilities.

“When COVID kicked in, we realized that we had to pause our senior program,” said Andrea Adler, manager of digital advocacy at BBC and a volunteer for the organization’s food drive.

Typically, the senior program would provide a daily lunch, along with a recreational program.

“This helped with the mental health component of socializing, and the food and nutritional element as well,” Adler noted. “We realized people are going to go without eating because this was their main meal of the day.”

The meal initiative is now in its 15th week and organizers are committed to helping those at risk until the crisis is over.

Many, if not most of the staff at B’nai Brith, have volunteered personal hours to help with the food drive.

“Everybody pitched in,” said Adler. “Our Chief Technology Officer started driving a truck to pick up food. People stopped and took a pause from what they would do outside of work to get this program up and running.”

Up to 40 volunteers are delivering food. Adler herself donates many hours every week to help.

“It’s just indescribable, providing people in need of food – a basic source of life,” she said.

The drive provides weekly delivery of healthy and kosher meals free of charge. All volunteers observe COVID public health protocols: Wearing masks and gloves to deliver boxes of food straight to the doors of recipients, many of whom have not left their homes since the pandemic hit, leaving them depressed and isolated.

“What makes us different is the personal touch,” said Adler. “These people have no family support. So we check in with them and ask how they are doing and if they need anything. One lady said she needed a mask so we threw a mask in her box. Our social chat makes them feel connected. We want to make sure they are stimulated, that way they feel cared for.”

Since the operation began, 800 boxes of food have been delivered to some 1,500 families.

“One lady I deliver to uses a walker. She can’t get out of her apartment without assistance – she hasn’t [it] for two-and-a-half months. She has one son in his 70s; he is immunocompromised, so they are self isolating. She told me that the food she gets from [our] program was her core meal of the day, and if it wasn’t for [that], she really doesn’t know what she would do,” Adler said.

Boxes contain fresh produce, healthy snacks, grains, canned and dry goods.

“Sometimes we get donations from a bakery, so we’re able to include fresh bread,” Adler pointed out.

She added, with pride: “As soon as my kids found out what was happening, the first thing they said is, ‘we want to help.’ Our teenage kids made a personal donation using their allowance and donated two boxes of food.”The organization relies entirely on donations. To make one, visit: www.bnaibrithcanada.ca

Susan Minuk
Susan Minuk