Mar. 9, 2011
Each month, synagogue volunteers plan, purchase, cook, package and deliver 125 hot and nutritious meals to homebound seniors.
Community Contact Information:
Congregation Beth Israel
North Adams, MA
- Prepare, package and deliver hot, nutritious meals for all homebound seniors in the City of North Adams (about 125 meals) on one Sunday each month.
- Energize the congregation to act on an important human services issue in the community and learn about the Jewish value of feeding the hungry.
- Create a social network of volunteers—congregation members, local unaffiliated Jews, and members of other faiths—to have fun and build community while making a difference on an important issue.
Once a month, synagogue volunteers plan, purchase, cook, package and deliver 125 hot and nutritious meals to homebound seniors. The Take and Eat program fills the gaps of Meals on Wheels by delivering on weekends and holidays.
Take and Eat volunteers are organized into teams. Teams include: food buyers, cooks, bakers, packagers, card makers and drivers. Each team has a coordinator to oversee group responsibilities and ensure that everyone is ready on delivery day.
In addition to organizing volunteers, food preparation and delivery, the congregation certified its kitchen with the local board of health and conducted background checks on all volunteers who would deliver meals.
Prior to each delivery, the synagogue receives a list of qualifying seniors from two local meal delivery programs. A few weeks before each delivery day, the cooks set a menu based on the time of year, available ingredients and the number of volunteers available for that delivery.
One week before delivery day, the food buyers coordinate with the cooks and drive to the closest food discount warehouse to purchase or obtain necessary ingredients. Purchased food is stored in the synagogue kitchen or, when needed, in the homes of congregants. Meanwhile, the bakers prepare the dessert which is delivered to the synagogue the day before the delivery.
On the night before the delivery, the first team of cooks comes into the synagogue to begin initial preparation of the meal—mostly chopping vegetables and portioning food.
On the morning of the delivery, the second team of cooks arrives at 8 a.m. to cook the rest of the meal. Packagers arrive 10 a.m. to place meals in sterile food containers and place each complete meal, including a greeting card prepared by children from the congregation, into a brown bag. Drivers arrive at 11 a.m. with large, insulated picnic coolers, which are loaded with the brown paper bags. Before the meals leave the synagogue, the entire Take and Eat team comes together to offer a blessing for the mitzvah of repairing the world and the rabbi offers a short d'var Torah.
Drivers deliver their meals to recipients and keep the same routes from month to month so they can make lasting connections with the people on their routes. This way, they are able to report on any changes or emerging needs among the people they serve which are forwarded to other social service providers.
The greeting card included with each meal also contains a feedback form about the Take and Eat program. Each month, the synagogue reviews the comments to help improve the program.
Since beginning the program in July 2010, Congregation Beth Israel’s Take and Eat program has delivered more than 600 meals; the synagogue expects to reach at least 1,500 delivered meals before the end of the first year. Other area churches run their own Take and Eat programs, and Congregation Beth Israel has helped those churches by delivering meals on Christmas and other Christian holidays.
The volunteers see how Take and Eat recipients wait by their doors for the meals, and that image has deepened the volunteers’ commitment to serve. Several volunteers who had previously been only marginally involved have become more deeply committed and curious about Jewish learning and synagogue involvement.