Jewish Relief Agency (JRA) was founded in 2000 as a volunteer-led hunger-relief organization working to inspire volunteerism in Philadelphia, under the conviction that no member of our community should be hungry. Today, JRA continues to create positive change by bringing people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities together each month to fulfill its mission.
Jewish Relief Agency serves over 6,800 diverse, low-income individuals across Greater Philadelphia, by relieving hunger, improving lives, and strengthening our community. Through a monthly Food Distribution Program, JRA harnesses the power of hundreds of volunteers to deliver kosher, nutritious food assistance and essential home supplies to thousands of low-income households each month.
Although many organizations are working to fight hunger in Philadelphia, very few deliver directly to the homes in need. Home delivery alleviates several barriers food-insecure families may face such as the need to leave the house, lack of transportation, or access to healthy foods in nearby markets. Many of the individuals JRA serves, often elderly or disabled, are also experiencing some level of isolation, which has only been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic. Through JRA’s program model, the agency is able to provide valued food assistance along with a warm community connection.
Bill Novick, Board Chair
Rabbi Menachem Schmidt
In Philadelphia, 23% of seniors are living in poverty and 1 in 5 children are struggling with hunger. JRA provides free food and essential household items to 3,800 food-insecure households in the 5-county Greater Philadelphia area and parts of southern New Jersey. JRA's programs are open to anyone living in our delivery region with a household income at or below 150% of the federal poverty guildline, regardless of their religion, age, race, ethnicity, or background. Our clients include homebound older adults, children, persons experiencing housing instability, Holocaust survivors, individuals with intellectual disabilities, refugees, and persons facing temporary financial emergencies.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 1,000 volunteers would come to JRA's warehouse in Northeast Philadelphia on one Sunday each month to pack and deliver food. When social distancing recommendations were offered, JRA was an early adopter, modifying its program model to limit the risk of exposure for both clients and volunteers. We pioneered a drive-thru pick-up model for food pantries across the state, provided safety training for volunteers delivering the items, and implemented a no-contact delivery to clients.
JRA provides a monthly box of nutritious food weighing about 15 lbs. that includes vegetables, carbohydrates, proteins, fruits, and fresh produce in the eight months of the year when refrigeration is not necessary. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, JRA has increased its offerings by providing critical household goods like toilet paper and dish soap, and PPE in the form of face masks. In addition to the monthly box, JRA's Family Friendly Food Initiative provides over 700 children and their families a bag of child-approved foods such as peanut butter, jelly, granola bars, pretzels, and fruit cups. Many of our seniors and families with children also receive an Everyday Essentials bag, which provides important household goods, such as shampoo, laundry detergent, toilet paper, soap, incontinence supplies, and diapers.