We are now entering a “new normal” as we continue to deal with the impact of the pandemic. And while the pandemic has greatly challenged the social service sector, it has also expedited innovative solutions, particularly ones using technology. The kosher food pantry Masbia, which began using a new app called Plentiful during the pandemic, is a prime example. Other bright spots: Local federations and aid groups are learning how to harness data gathered in a variety of ways to better serve their populations and lessen the impacts of poverty, and new initiatives are helping those who struggle to find jobs, particularly those with disabilities find meaningful placement.
Over the next several months the Poverty Affinity group will look into each of these bright spots and share best practices with our community. Now is a great time to harness these lessons and learn from each other. Though we are entering the darker months of winter, the light of hope shines bright. With each passing day, we are growing stronger, and our ability to help those in need grows.
Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu
Executive Vice President
Jewish Funders Network
Wednesday, November 17, 1-2 p.m. ET (10-11 a.m. PT)
Join the National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty for an exclusive presentation and facilitated discussion as we dive into the results of three major new studies on Jewish disability inclusion in the workforce. Speakers include Gali Cooks of Leading Edge; Reuben Rotman of the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies; Meagan Buren of Buren Research and Communications, LLC; and Jennifer Mizrahi and Matan Koch of RespectAbility. This event is made possible through the generosity of the Mizrahi Family Charitable Fund in honor of RespectAbility.
Masbia and Plentiful Move the 'Bread Line' Online
Soon after the Covid pandemic hit New York in March of 2020, the lines outside Masbia, a kosher food pantry (that also operates soup kitchens) with three locations throughout the city, often snaked around the block, with more than 500 people waiting. Now only a few people are waiting at any given time. It’s not that demand for food has decreased dramatically: Masbia continues to serve an average of 400 families a day at each of its locations. What’s changed is that, as Masbia Executive Director Alexander Rapaport puts it, the “bread line has gone digital.”
Along with more than 200 food pantries in New York City (including several other Jewish ones), Masbia now uses Plentiful, an app that makes life easier for both food pantries and their clients. It's one of several new innovations in the field (including some experiments with digital ordering) using tech tools to streamline service delivery and respect client dignity. With Plentiful, individuals in need of food, can see what pantries are open near them and, in many cases, what food is currently available, then make an appointment for pickup, sparing them the embarrassment and inconvenience of standing in a long line.
Meanwhile, food pantries, which tend to operate on shoestring budgets with minimal staff, can communicate with clients, manage traffic flow, and collect needed data ahead of time. With Covid still a concern, it also allows for social distancing, protecting the safety of both clients and volunteers.
“If we know we’re going to have a staff meeting, we don’t book appointments during that time, or if we know we are expecting supplies or a lot of volunteers, then we can book more appointments for those times,” Rapaport explains.
Now clients can be in and out in less than 10 minutes, he says, adding, “It’s quicker than a bank.”
Developed by the New York City Food Assistance Collaborative, a coalition of public and private organizations working to alleviate hunger in New York City, and now operated jointly by City Harvest and United Way of New York City, the app works on Apple and Android phones, and a simplified version is available for clients without smartphones. It provides translation, enabling food pantries to send messages in nine languages.
“It is easy to use, and it makes intake fast and simple,” Rapaport says. “You can send reminders to the clients; you can even tell them, ‘There’s lots of produce today, so bring a wagon.’”
While he was initially skeptical that clients would use Plentiful, Rapaport said the app took off more quickly than anticipated, allowing Masbia to make almost all its food pantry distribution reservation-only.
“Some of our best pantries are at 60 to 75 percent reservations now and the rest are still walk-ins,” says Bryan Moran, Director of Dev Ops at Plentiful and Program Operations Director at City Harvest. “At Masbia it’s like 95 percent reservations. They’ve really embraced it, and they’re great partners.”
While Plentiful launched in New York, it is now available to food pantries (and their clients) throughout the United States. To learn how your community or agency can use Plentiful, email [email protected]
New Videos from GA Leadership Lab
The Jewish Federations of North America's GA Leadership Lab in October featured two sessions on Jewish poverty, both of which can be viewed on YouTube.
"Supporting Those in Need & Combating Poverty" explores how our communal institutions serve both Jews and non-Jews, how this work reinforces our inter-group alliances, and what the opportunities and challenges are in the coming year, especially in terms of the potential expansion of the social safety net by the current administration. In "Using Data to Drive Our Work," you'll learn how Jewish nonprofits can use data to better understand the people it serves, anticipate what's next and react in real time.
Explore the growing library of Affinity Group videos, on this playlist on JFN's YouTube channel. For a more focused experience, check out the following Affinity Group playlists:
- Our Covid briefing series, which includes videos on "The Intersection of Government and Philanthropy in Addressing Jewish Poverty" and "How the Pandemic is Impacting Jews of Color."
- Videos from our FedLab workshops
- Our "Success Factors" series, which includes videos on "Engaging People with Lived Experiences" and "Best Practices Addressing Jewish Poverty in Small Towns."
Your one-stop shop for all Affinity Group videos, briefing papers, newsletters, and other materials.
Nonprofits addressing Jewish poverty — and the funders who support them — can benefit from the many resources offered by GrantED, a joint project of Jewish Funders Network and UpStart. GrantED (jgranted.org) creates and curates articles, tools, and other materials to inspire and inform grantmakers and grantseekers, organizing around four core interdependent components of successful partnerships: strengthening relationships, understanding, and addressing power dynamics, sustaining impact, and effective communication.
GrantED's resources and case studies are selected with an eye toward sharing best practices, showcasing success stories, and equipping funders and nonprofits with the tools to improve. GrantED also encourages interaction and knowledge-sharing by offering workshops, facilitated conversations, and other programs. Learn more at www.jgranted.org.
—From the Field—
Higher Food Prices Hit the Poor and Those Who Help Them
(The New York Times, October 27)
Survey: Jewish New Yorkers’ Employment, Mental Health Suffered During Pandemic
(Jewish Telegraphic Agency, October 14)
Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies Receives $1.2M USDA Grant
(eJewish Philanthropy, October 14)
Philanthropy Aids in Poverty Decline
(Axios, October 13)
Is Social Distancing Unraveling the Bonds That Keep Society Together?
(The Conversation, October 6)
Founded in 2019 and coordinated by Jewish Funders Network and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty is a collaborative of funders, Jewish Federations, direct service providers, researchers, media outlets, and advocates dedicated to fighting poverty in the American Jewish community. Learn more here.