Photos by David Stuck
More than 1,000 Montgomery County children received free kosher meals last week thanks to a state-sponsored program facilitated by Yad Yehuda of Greater Washington, which provides families with financial and food assistance.
Operating out of Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School in Silver Spring, the program first rolled out May 13, said Stephanie Savir, Yad Yehuda’s director of operations. On May 15 alone, volunteers distributed breakfast and lunch meals to 1,013 children.
The USDA Summer Food Program is distributing meals to children under 18 all over the country, said Savir. USDA funds, administered by the state, are used to reimburse the vendors providing meals.
Using Shalom Kosher and Ben Yehudah Pizza as vendors is a chance to support local businesses during a challenging time for them as well, said Gabe Aaronson, a grants and systems specialist for the Orthodox Union. Teach Coalition, a project of the OU that lobbies for government support for nonpublic schools in North America, is an advocate nationwide for kosher meal options at public schools. Teach Coalition representatives helped Yad Yehuda navigate the state approval process and leverage connections with county stakeholders, said Aaronson, who was involved in the process.
Said Dan Mitzner, Teach Coalition’s director of state political affairs, “The kosher lunch program is an example of multiple local Jewish organizations coming together and deciding that they will not let Jewish children go hungry because of lack of kosher food.”
“In this crisis, I have been struck by how many community members in need refrain from seeking assistance for fear of taking it away from someone who needs it more,” said Nechemia Mond, Yad Yehuda’s president. “That makes this program – which offers free kosher food for all children regardless of income level – so very needed at this time.”
Savir agreed, adding that the program is there to help alleviate the stress facing parents right now, be it from financial strain or from preparing three meals a day for children home from school for the past two months.
Volunteers wear gloves and masks. When drivers pull into the school’s circular drive, volunteers hand the number of meals the family needs through an open window. Savir described it as a “contactless operation.”
Yad Yehuda has a 60-day contract to distribute meals, said Savir, but that could be extended. “We’re in a wait and see position, like everybody else.”