Despite Social Distancing, Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry Remains Open

JFS Volunteer Programs Manager Beth Kotzin’s sons (L-R: Benji, Jacob, and Josh) help with a large food delivery to help keep the food bank open.
JFS Volunteer Programs Manager Beth Kotzin’s sons (L-R: Benji, Jacob, and Josh) help with a large food delivery to help keep the food bank open.

Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry will remain open during this time of social distancing, so everyone who needs groceries can get them.


And they are staying safe: “We really want to reassure the community that we are working hard to ensure the safety of our professionals and volunteers,” said Liz Vogel, CEO at Jewish Family Service, which is funded by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.


Recently, Beth Kotzin, JFS Volunteer Programs Manager, and her three sons, along with Linda Kean, JFS Vice President, Operations and Youth & Family Programs, went above and beyond to get a big delivery from the Freestore Foodbank and bring it to Jewish Family Service Barbash Family Vital Support Center. A few days later, Kean and Kotzin, with the help of volunteers and JFS staff, unloaded the fresh supplies and set up to prepare grocery pick-ups for families in need.


“As JFS staff members, it’s important to us to keep the pantry up and running for our clients,” Kotzin said. “In these difficult and confusing times, no one should be worried about where their next meal is coming from right now.”


Normally clients shop for food on their own, but now staff members and a limited number of volunteers are pre-bagging groceries for pick-up. Vogel said the professional staff is handling much of the work normally done by volunteers to limit the number of people coming and going.


“We are trying to be very cautious about food handling. We just learned from the National Institute for Health that the virus can live on surfaces for several days,” Kean said. “We are all wearing food grade gloves and masks to try to limit potential exposure to the virus.”


JFS staff is in direct communication with existing clients, giving instructions on how they can get their grocery supplies. While the food pantry does not take walk-ins, JFS continues to accept new clients through the community’s COVID-19 hotline.


“We want everyone to know that JFS is here to serve,” Vogel said. “We expect that some people who have always given to us are now in a position to need our services. Our doors are open for anyone seeking help.”


With Passover fast approaching, changes have also been made to the Dr. Samuel S. Rockwern Passover Delivery Project of Jewish Family Service. Normally volunteers help pack Passover Seder meal kits, then deliver those kits to area residents, but because of social distancing, “we’ve been making one-on-one arrangements with people to receive their Passover meal boxes,” said Vogel.


Unlike in more normal times, this year only a few people will be inside the facility adding perishables to the boxes. Once the boxes are ready, a small number of volunteers will pick the boxes up outside, then deliver them to people’s doorsteps. Instead of taking the food inside people’s homes, as in past years, volunteers will ring the bell to let people know their delivery has arrived.


“We understand this is an unprecedented situation we are facing, but together we can get through this,” said Vogel. “We want Passover to happen, we want people who need food to be able to have it.”