Relieving Food Insecurity with Groceries and Friendship

On a morning in July, Jakob Kaplan and Zachary Rosner worked together with a group of five Friendship Circle participants to fill 50 bags of groceries that they later delivered to the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges. They created a kind of assembly line in the LifeTown Multi-Purpose room that morning, filled with open bags and lists of what needed to be placed in each bag at each station, ranging from cans of fruit, beans, and tunafish to bags of rice, boxes of macaroni and cheese, and packets of oatmeal.

The two 17-year-old rising seniors at Newark Academy from Short Hills had spent countless hours over several months planning and organizing. Both have volunteered at the Friendship Circle and the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges since they were 13, and wanted to organize a joint project that would enable Friendship Circle participants to contribute as well.

“This project not only helped an organization in need but created an opportunity for our participants to become givers, something they don’t get to do every day,” said Levi Grossbaum, Director of Operations at Friendship Circle New Jersey. “Jake and Zach put a lot of effort into this project, being connected with our young adults at LifeTown.”

The boys were grateful to have the opportunity to volunteer. “It’s just a way to give back,” said Jakob. “I’m very fortunate and I feel I have a duty to serve.”

IFPO President Jodi Cooperman expressed her gratitude for the 50 bags of shelf stable food items. “We appreciate that Jake and Zach leveraged their relationship with the Friendship Circle, as well as their knowledge of IFPO, to create this important donation for our immediate use,” she said.

The teens were surprised at how complicated it was to put the day together. “I was expecting a lot of work, but I didn’t realize how much planning and logistics were involved,” from buying the food and ensuring its kashrut since they’d be working at LifeTown, a kosher facility, to all the communication required among the parties. When they finally dropped off the finished bags at the food pantry, “We really felt a sense of accomplishment and people there were really appreciative,” said Jakob.

Despite the amount of effort, he said, if they had the time, “We would do it again.”

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