Food insecurity in the Jewish community

August 2021
Rachel Bernholtz

At Rosh Hashanah, when some of us may be praying together for the first time in more than a year, I hope we will take the opportunity to reflect on a challenging 5781 and to look ahead to a better, sweeter and more joyous 5782.  Wherever we are, I hope we will also remember those in our community who are experiencing food insecurity. 
Since March 2020, our community has had to deal with lockdowns, closures, and quarantines due to COVID-19. Who among us has not grown tired of Zooming instead of hugging? How many of our community members have lost jobs and opportunities as the economy struggles to adapt to ever-changing guidelines? How many of our seniors have had to endure life in solitude without the supportive visits of friends and family? How many of our neighbours have been unable to afford enough safe, nutritious food to feed themselves and their families, and have gone to bed at night with their stomachs rumbling?  

As the pandemic drags on, stress on families in our community continues to grow.  In order to meet the increased demand, Hamilton Jewish Family Services has stepped up.  Hamilton’s Kosher Food Bank, renamed Carol’s Cupboard in loving memory of Carol Krames, z”l, has undergone several changes. Over the past year, the space has been renovated and expanded, making room for a new industrial refrigerator, a third freezer and more shelving for an increased variety of items, including pantry staples and personal hygiene products. Carol’s Cupboard now provides support to more than 90 families, 40 of whom have joined just since last Rosh Hashanah.

This is the second summer Hamilton Jewish Family Services is running our community gardens. There are nine garden beds in three locations: Kehila Heschel Community Day School, Adas Israel Synagogue and Beth Jacob Synagogue. A team of six volunteers manages the gardens which provide fresh produce that is distributed by the food bank. Additional fresh produce is provided by the Dundas Rotary Club and individual contributions. Our partner, Hamilton Food Share, provides us with milk, eggs, and non-perishables weekly. 

It was just before Rosh Hashanah last year that I accepted the call to become the food security coordinator for Hamilton Jewish Family Services. I had been a board member and volunteer for this wonderful organization, but I did not know how much I had to do and how much I had to learn about food insecurity in Canada and in the Jewish community. I was surprised to learn that 65 per cent of people who are food insecure are employed.  And although the negative effects of food insecurity on physical, mental and social health are well known, studies show that most individuals experiencing severe food insecurity do not ask for help.  

At this season of reflection and renewal, I hope our food bank will be in your thoughts and will be supported in your actions. It takes the whole community to ensure those in need can live with dignity and peace of mind. For more information about Hamilton’s Kosher Food Bank, please contact me at or call 905-627-9922 ext. 29.