MEETING THE CHALLENGE OF FOOD INSECURITY IN ISRAEL
An Interview with Mitch Chupak, Director of Development for The Jaffa Institute
It is a particularly busy time of the year at The Jaffa Institute in Israel, as it oversees the packing and delivery of Passover food parcels to those in need in some of the most impoverished areas in the country, says Mitch Chupak.
In his role as Director of Development of this 40-year-old multi-service social agency, Chupak is an indefatigable advocate for the underprivileged in Israel and, more specifically, for The Jaffa Institute’s target communities which include Jaffa, South Tel Aviv, Bat Yam, Yehud and Beth Shemesh.
In addition to the many hats he wears at The Jaffa Institute and elsewhere, Chupak is a board member of Canadian Friends of the Jaffa Institute.
“The Jaffa Institute’s mission is to support the diverse individuals we serve in our catchment area and thereby assist in breaking the cycle of poverty in Israel,” he explained in an interview with Canadian Friends of the Jaffa Institute. “We are able to fulfill this mandate thanks to the generous support of donors and dedicated volunteers in Israel and around the world.”
The poverty challenges in Israel are monumental, says Chupak. “The not-for-profit sector estimates that some 23% of Israeli citizens are in need.” Food insecurity is a huge issue, he adds. It is impossible, he says, “for children to function and study on an empty stomach.”
The Jaffa Institute’s high profile Passover Products Distribution Project, as well as its food drives for other key Jewish holidays, form part of its overall strategy to address food insecurity, he says.
On a regular basis, the organization provides fresh sandwiches and fruit to children in schools for the mid-morning break, says Chupak. In addition, it delivers dry food packages every two weeks to 700 families. These recipients include Holocaust survivors and Ukrainian refugee families.
For Passover 2023/5783, (which begins on the eve of April 5), The Jaffa Institute is aiming to deliver 3500 to 5000 special Passover food packages to individuals, families, Holocaust survivors and Ukrainian refugees, “so that they too can enjoy this holiday.”
In mid-March Canadian Friends of the Jaffa Institute launched its complementary Passover Food Drive. CFJI, is hoping to raise sufficient funds to provide 100 families in Israel with Passover Food Packages, through The Jaffa Institute.
We took a few moments to learn more from Mitch about what goes into this significant undertaking.
Q: What are the logistics on the ground in Israel for the Passover Food Project?
A: The Jaffa Institute staff, with the assistance of volunteers from Israel and abroad, successfully completed the packing of these Passover food products in mid-March, says Chupak. This considerable task was performed in the organization’s well-designed Food Distribution Center, which is part of a conventional office building in Jaffa, that also serves as the organization’s headquarters.
Because Passover food needs to be kosher for the holiday, these products are stored separately in the Food Distribution Center, says Chupak.
Q: What is in these Passover food packages?
A: Chupak says: “All good things that are the traditional staples for this joyous holiday including oil, matzah, cans of fish (such as tuna and bottles of gefilte fish), canned vegetables, macaroons, cakes and cookies — as well as a bottle wine that is kosher for Passover.”
Once the food is packed, the next step is for Israeli volunteers to make the deliveries. Despite his busy schedule, Chupak often goes along with the volunteers to deliver the food parcels and visit with the recipients.
He recently accompanied the Chief Executive Officer of one of Israel’s major insurance companies, on such a delivery. “We climbed four flights of stairs in this dilapidated building and when we reached the apartment and he knocked on the door, we heard a kid cry out through the door: “Mommy, mommy the food has arrived.” At which point, says Chupak, the insurance executive burst into tears.”
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*This article is based on an interview conducted by Canadian Friends of the Jaffa Institute in mid-March.