Jewish Food Pantry faces shortages


In the basement of the Jewish Family & Children’s Services building, where food is stored for the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry, boxes are piled high — empty boxes, that is.

“Looks can be deceiving,” said Ellen Sabin, food pantry assistant for JF &CS.

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Sabin points to largely bare wood palettes on the floor.

“We used to have a mound of food, from the floor, almost to the ceiling,” she said.

That mound of food was mostly what was collected during the High Holidays by synagogue food drives. However, that supply is almost depleted, said food pantry coordinator Sue Rundblad. “Usually just sorting all of the food takes several months. But we’re done sorting and giving out almost all of the food that came in.”

“It’s pretty scary,” Rundblad said.

The Jewish Food Pantry has seen rising demand since the end of the summer, she said.

“In September the numbers started to rise. Every month since, we have gone up about 200 clients per month,” Rundblad said. “The month of October had the highest numbers we’ve ever seen, with just over 2,000 clients,” she said.

That is compared with around 1,400 clients served each month during the summer, she said.

Rundblad said new clients coming to the pantry are up as well, with about 80 new clients a month, compared with the 50 to 60 new clients a month previously.

The Jewish Food Pantry provides clients, individuals and families, with a 7-10 day supply of food once a month, or more if circumstances are severe, Rundblad said.

Although most clients come to JF &CS to pick up food, the pantry also delivers food to about 300 elderly, infirm or disabled clients a month.

Rundblad said she does not expect that demand will go down in the near future.

At this time of year, with schools letting children out for holiday breaks, many families need more food because children are at home.

“Right now is a really hard time of year,” Rundblad said. “We just have more people and the needs are greater.”

Rundblad said she has heard from colleagues at area food pantries that they are experiencing the same scenario: rising demand without donations to match.

“I don’t remember, for many years, seeing so many articles in the paper about food pantries closing their doors,” she said. “It’s more worrisome than I can remember.”

However, Rundblad said that the Jewish Food Pantry’s doors will stay open. “We will not close our doors and we will not turn anyone away,” she said.

The food pantry depends on donations from individuals, food drives at businesses and congregations, from Operation Food Search and St. Louis Area Food Bank, and it also purchases some food with grant money, which is quickly drying up, Rundblad said.

Rundblad said that the food pantry “desperately needs” food donations and volunteers.

She said that people are welcome to call her to find out what is needed, or to get more information about volunteering.

Sabin said some foods are always at the top of the food pantry’s list: canned tuna, hearty soups or stews, canned pasta with meat, peanut butter, jelly. In addition, she said they are always in need of personal care items like toothpaste, which people cannot buy with food stamps.

To contact the Harvey Kornblum Food Pantry, call 314-812-9307.