With expanded hours, Jewish food pantry seeks additional volunteers

BY MIKE SHERWIN, ASSISTANT EDITOR

The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry is looking for additional volunteers to fill its recently expanded hours of operation.

The food pantry, which used to be open three days a week, secured funding from the Harvey Kornblum Foundation, which will allow for the expanded hours. The food pantry has been open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. since Feb. 1.

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The food pantry was one of three Jewish Family & Children’s Service programs to receive grants from the Harvey Kornblum Foundation. The Homemakers and WINGS programs also received grants.

Sue Rundblad, food pantry coordinator at JF &CS, said the grant allowed the food pantry to move food pantry assistant Ellen Sabin from the four days a week she previously worked, to a full-time position.

In addition, the food pantry plans to hire a new full-time staff person, based on the one-year grant from the Harvey Kornblum Foundation.

In addition, Rundblad said, the new JF &CS volunteer coordinator, Kelly Mueller, has further helped to streamline the food pantry’s operations.

The result, she said, is that the food pantry will be able to help more needy families, and provide more time to each case.

“I am sure we will get an increase in clients, but we would get so busy on the days we were normally open that this will hopefully make it a lot better for clients, giving them more attention, and more time to interview them and find out what their needs are,” Rundblad said.

The food pantry has been “stretched thin,” Rundblad said, particularly since last fall, when the organization, like many others in the city, saw a spike in numbers of clients seeking food, and an increase in the frequency those clients were seeking help.

After serving around 1,400 clients each month during the summer, the food pantry had an increase of around 200 clients each month, with 2,000 clients in October.

The increased need depleted the donations garnered during the High Holidays, when local food drives for the Jewish Food Pantry are at their peak.

Rundblad said that after an article and commentaries appeared in the St. Louis Jewish Light, detailing the increased need for donations, the food pantry was “deluged with calls” from the community, seeking to help. “It was unbelievable,” she said.

While the number of donations has tapered off, she said, there has also been an increase in interest from local organizations in getting educational presentations about the Jewish Food Pantry, which will hopefully lead to more food drives and awareness about the food pantry.

One benefit of the additional staff and expanded hours, Rundblad said, is that she will be able to have more time for community outreach.

“We’ll be able to get out in the community more and talk to people — whether they are donors, clients, or anyone that is interested. And hopefully it will give us more time to plan events and plan food collections,” she said.

Rundblad said the food pantry could use around 36 volunteers each week to help during the expanded hours of operation. She said the average amount of time each volunteer spends on a “shift” is three hours, although they ask volunteers to devote only a minimum of two hours.

“Traditionally we were only looking for volunteers for Monday mornings and Tuesdays and Thursdays. Now we’re looking for volunteers for later in the afternoons, and all day on Wednesdays and Fridays,” she said.

“That’s a significant amount of new volunteers that we’re needing,” Rundblad said.

Volunteers work on a variety of tasks, including sorting food donations, packing them into bundles which are then delivered to clients, and interviewing clients.

Rundblad said the food pantry is particularly in need of personal care items and cleaning supplies. And the pantry is also looking for canned tuna, peanut butter, canned fruit, and dried or canned pasta.

For more information about volunteering at the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry, contact Kelley Mueller at 314-812-9386 or email [email protected] For information about donating to the food pantry, contact Sue Rundblad at 314-812-9307.

Published Feb. 13, 2008