‘Feed the Pantry & amp; Feed the Soul’

For a family that has never experienced hunger, Marlene and John Isaacs take the subject very seriously, as do their children, Lynne and Manne Palan. Their monetary contribution is considerable as is their generous contribution of time and effort at the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry.

On Sunday, June 8 from noon to 3 p.m., the Isaacs and the Palans will co-chair an open house at the Food Pantry, 10950 Schuetz Road, an opportunity to “Feed the Pantry & Feed the Soul” — a fun-filled event with music, dancing, face painting, a visit to the Pantry’s distribution center and the chance to stack groceries and help make nutritious snacks. Admission is a bag of groceries for the Pantry’s shelves. It has been suggested that the foods which are needed most are hearty soups, canned fruit, snacks, tuna and dry pasta.

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“We want this to be a family affair with grandparents bringing grandchildren, grandkids bringing Grandpa and Grandma and of course, parents bringing the kids. There will be something fun for everyone. Or if people are busy they may just stop by and drop off their bag of groceries.” Lynne told me. The object of the event is to raise awareness of the Food Pantry and the needs of the hungry in the community, a fact well-known to the Palans’s son whose bar mitzvah project was to fund raise for the pantry.

In 1991, I was asked to write a column about the newly established Jewish Food Pantry, known today as the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry. It was then in a small room off the lobby of the Jewish Family and Children’s Service on Olive Boulevard. During the first few months it was open, the pantry averaged 22 clients per month and distributed approximately 150 food items. Currently this number has increased to more than 1,800 clients receiving food and personal care items each month. The program staff has grown from three part timers to a total of five staff and over 70 direct service volunteers. Hours of operation have expanded from six to 40 hours per week to accommodate the community’s needs. And instead of a single room with stocked shelves, the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry now occupies a large space on the first floor in the JF &CS building on Schuetz Road as well as the huge basement with lots of storage, refrigeration and freezers.

Due to job layoffs, rising prices, government cuts and a sinking economy, demand has increased about one-third since September. With summer approaching, the Food Pantry is especially concerned as families are particularly vulnerable since school-based federal food programs for children are not available at this time, making the demand for food even greater. Although the Jewish Food Pantry was founded to address the problem of hunger in the Jewish community (at that time demographic research showed that about 12% of Jewish families in St. Louis lived below the Federal Poverty Level), today it serves the needs of the community and is available to anyone who may need assistance. Thanks to Harvey Kornblum and his wife Gay who created a $1 million endowment in 2003, the pantry is able to help alleviate hunger in the Jewish and general communities.

John Isaacs, co-chair with his wife and kids of “Feed the Pantry — Feed the Soul” on June 8, is an enthusiastic volunteer at the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry. Twice a week he can be found there sorting, stocking, packing, preparing, handing out food and doing whatever is needed to serve the clients. A couple years ago when a second truck was needed to deliver food, Marlene and John established the Isaac Mobile Market Fund which helped finance the cost of delivering food to home-bound clients. Drivers deliver food supplies and homemade dinners to more than 300 people each month, representing those who are medically and physically challenged. Without such deliveries, these clients would not receive food on a regular basis. John told me that many of the clients are Russian and both drivers, Yuri and Boris, are also Russian. When they deliver dinners they may visit briefly with the clients and relieve some of the loneliness of the housebound.

When clients come into the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry, they receive not only food, but also a helping hand and hope for a better life. So hightail it to Schnucks or Dierbergs or Trader Joe’s or the market of your choice, fill a bag with good, nutritional foods and drop it off on June 8. Know that you will be doing a real mitzvah by helping to feed the hungry.