Jody and Harvey Dales cut the ribbon at the Kitchen’s opening on April 18. On their left is Tanja Demajo, JFS chief executive officer; on their right is Janelle Zwarych, JFS director of food security. (screenshot)
Along-in-the-works food hub was launched by Jewish Family Services in a virtual grand opening April 18. Dubbed the Kitchen, the facility will be home to a range of JFS programs that target food insecurity.
“We believe that nourishing and good food has the power to connect people, to build a healthy community and to inspire us to engage in conversations about social justice,” said Tanja Demajo, chief executive officer of JFS. “The Kitchen is not a place but a destination, a destination in which community involvement breaks down the wall between the givers and receivers. We strive to empower people to make personal choices, to advocate for themselves and have access to the basic resources needed for healthy lives.”
The opening of the Kitchen, located on East Third Avenue between Quebec and Ontario streets, is the culmination of more than two years of work, during which JFS and the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver have implemented recommendations from their joint Food Security Task Force report, which was released in 2018. Initiatives already undertaken include an expansion of the JFS food program to hub models that recognize and accommodate the 50% of clients now living outside Vancouver city limits. They have also developed new programs, such as Breakfast Club for kids and meals for seniors. Healthy cooking classes have been delivered and, at the start of COVID, food programs were shifted to delivery-only. With the support of RBC, JFS purchased a food van to facilitate movement of goods between suppliers, warehouses and hubs.
Demajo especially thanked Jody and Harvey Dales, who ceremonially cut the ribbon at the new facility.
“Their belief in dignified access to food, in JFS and this community’s ability to undertake this project is what made this dream a reality,” she said.
Bill Kaplan, JFS board chair, put the landmark event in context.
“JFS has been serving our community since 1936,” he said. “Although the context of our times change, our mission has not. We continue to serve our community as an extension of our family and, today, we are here to mark a special occasion in that service…. The name, the Kitchen, captures everything we hope this space to become – a warm, inviting place for members of our community to be welcomed, nourished and cared for. There will be healthy food, cooking classes, counselors to talk to, space for workshops, all provided here at this new location. It’s how we can meet the real needs of our community in an environment that is both dignifying and empowering.
“The tagline that we chose is ‘Nourishing Lives,’ which captures not only the physical nourishment that we receive through food, but a more holistic purpose as well. It’s within community that the act of giving and receiving nourishment takes place. This connection is the context for relationships – for someone to check in with you, to ask you how you’re doing, give a listening ear, give a helping hand. In these times especially, we need human connection for the nourishment of our souls. That is something we aspire to with the space and, as a community, we invite you to join us in that purpose.”
Stan Shaw and Simone Kallner, co-chairs of the JFS Food Security Committee, celebrated the launch and thanked those who made the project possible.
“Our new food hub facility is a wonderful example of what the Jewish community is doing to provide inclusive and dignified and respectful and reliably secure access to food to the most vulnerable among us,” said Shaw. “It’s a dream that’s come true. I am inspired to have been a part of such a wonderful team, including the staff and incredible volunteers at Jewish Family Services that have made this possible.”
Kallner added: “This new space will give people somewhere to go for support, connection, social gatherings … where everyone feels the comfort, warmth and inclusivity that our community can offer. It has been a true honour and privilege to be part of this amazing project alongside an incredibly talented, dedicated and heartfelt committee.”
She thanked Ezra Shanken, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, and Marcie Flom, executive director of the Jewish Community Foundation, for invaluable support.
Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Temple Sholom affixed the mezuzah and spoke of how hunger, by definition, is a problem that is largely out of sight and, as a result, too often out of mind.
“But this building, these people, this sign on the door, this address, this community program – they change everything as of this moment,” he said. “Hunger in the Jewish community is no longer invisible…. With this building and our community’s public and intentional dedication to supporting it, staffing it and promoting its many services, hunger in our community can no longer be overlooked, it can no longer be ignored. The very real pain of an empty stomach, that too many in our community experience on a regular basis, it cries out to us, it cries out for immediate attention, immediate action. This building, and what takes place here, they are the shofar blasts that must wake us up to the most solvable problem in our community. We can end hunger in the Jewish community. We can fix this.”
Torah, he added, commands farmers to leave the edges of their fields unharvested so that the hungry can obtain food.
“When we go shopping, our modern equivalent of harvesting our fields, we must buy extra food for the food bank every single time, and we can bring it here,” he said. “Open your hand to those in need, we read in Torah. It’s through our tzedakah and that of our Jewish community, through food drives and bar/bat mitzvah projects, donations made in honour and memory of our loved ones, all the ways Jews have given throughout time and all the ways that we give of our resources, all of those things will sustain this place and will fulfil the commandment to extend our hand to those in need.”
Janelle Zwarych, director of food security at JFS, led the virtual tour through the facility.
“The Kitchen means so much more than just food,” she said. “At any good party, it’s where everyone comes together, it’s a place of warmth, a place of creativity and a place of fun. Our place, the Kitchen, means all of those things rolled into one.”
In addition to being a place for the storage, sorting and delivery of food to clients, there is space for group cooking and classes, as well as community meals, when health protocols permit. There are offices where clients can meet with caseworkers to access government supports or borrow equipment from the Red Cross while picking up groceries. There is a small library, a kids’ zone with toys and books and working space for volunteers.
More information is online at jfskitchen.ca.