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Community Food Pantry expands hours—and need for volunteers

After the fanfare of the Community Food Pantry Grand Re-Opening last fall, the staff and volunteers at Jewish Family Service have quietly carried on the work it takes to provide supplemental food assistance to families within the 18104 zip code. And that is a lot of work! With just one part-time staff member, it takes the help of 30 dedicated volunteers to keep the pantry running for the clients who depend upon it for food assistance. And with the newly expanded space, in the past few months, that number of families has already increased from 125 to 144. 
“We are so fortunate to be partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley and Northeastern Pennsylvania, which affords us opportunities to receive extra donations we wouldn’t have access to otherwise,” said Sharon Gayner, JFS food pantry coordinator. “But there are certain requirements we must meet to participate in their program. Any new pantry which opens must have evening and/or weekend hours. We are happy to now be able to offer evening hours for our clients’ convenience.”
In addition to its normal Tuesday and Thursday hours, the pantry will now also be open every other Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m.
“With cuts to the SNAP program, Second Harvest is expecting a 20-25% increase in need, so we were already being asked to expand. The renovations and gift of the new refrigerator and freezer came at the perfect time in order to enable us to ramp up our efforts as needed,” explained JFS Community Impact Coordinator Rebecca Axelrod-Cooper.
But with the increased capacity also comes an increased need for volunteers and donations.
“There will now be weeks when we are open three days in a row, so we definitely need stocking help to replenish the pantry shelves in between,” said Chelsea Karp, JFS volunteer coordinator.
The average delivery coming into the pantry is anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 pounds of food, twice a month. JFS also has special relationships with nearby grocery stores to receive surplus items from them. There is a core of about eight men who volunteer to pick up and drop off donations from around town for the pantry. A young mother and her two little girls are dedicated regulars. Allentown LIFE brings adult volunteers with disabilities from their program to help out each month, as well. But more food and more manpower are always needed and welcome. 
“The expansion of capacity and hours at Jewish Family Service is great for the local community,” said David Cool, agency relations coordinator of Second Harvest. “By having additional hours available, they’re able to serve more working families. Also, by enlarging their pantry, they are able to offer healthier food options to the participants, all of which is a goal of Second Harvest Food Bank.”
If you are interested in getting involved with the JFS Community Food Pantry, even as an occasional back-up volunteer, please contact Food Pantry Coordinator Sharon Gayner at or 610-821-5500.