Over the last few months, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed so much of our everyday lives—from our jobs to how we interact with one another and everything in between. In some cases, those changes are relatively small: wearing masks when in public, working from home whenever possible, and trading in-person family gatherings for virtual game nights. For food banks, pantries, meal programs and those who visit them, the pandemic has resulted in a tremendous shift in not only the need, but how those programs operate.
This “new normal” that Covid-19 has created is likely going to continue for the next several months. The Mayerson JCC is helping seniors adjust to that new normal by making sure that all people who need help with nutrition are receiving it. The nonprofit organization provides food through two services: Meals on Wheels and Congregate Meals. Meals on Wheels differs from Congregate Meals as it involves the delivery of kosher meals directly to the recipient’s household; Congregate Meals are normally held daily, in-person at the JCC, allowing the community to enjoy lunches together.
Susan Bradley-Meyer, the Director of the 60 & Better Department at the JCC said, “Kosher meals are very expensive and we rely on the Federation’s support to be able to ensure food on the table for our community. Without the Federation’s funding, we wouldn’t be able to provide either of these vital services.” She went on to say, “It’s amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish and the sheer number of lives we’ve touched. It’s hard we don’t get to see their smiling faces within our doors, but we are working as a team to look out for our community and keep them all safe.”
As the pandemic shook the lives of those around us in March 2020, the Mayerson JCC anticipated and planned for the significant disruption this would have on both services.
As the only kosher congregate meal provider in Hamilton County and the southwestern Ohio region, the Mayerson JCC knew how vital these meal deliveries were to our community. Chris Ellison, the Assistant Director of the 60 & Better Department, led the team to create new driving routes, prepare meals, and deliver them to ensure members had food on the table. The number of meals delivered to clients’ homes almost doubled from 2019 to 2020, increasing from an already significant number — nearly sixty thousand — to over ninety-seven thousand meals delivered. Of those, more than fifteen thousand meals were delivered to Congregate clients who normally would have been eaten at the JCC, but they were delivered to help keep them safe and socially distanced due to the pandemic.
The community has shown great appreciation for all their hard work. Ellison explained, “We are overwhelmed with the number of clients who have written little notes to say thank you for what these meals mean to them.” He continued to describe one couple, in particular, who extended their thanks, “They can’t leave their house much because of the pandemic and so it’s nice for them to not only to be getting the food deliveries, but also to have the opportunity to see someone and to talk to someone. Knowing their story and how much even just the interaction of dropping off the meals means to them, means so much to me. We give people so much more than food through these meal deliveries—we give them hope, and being part of that is an amazing feeling.”
These unprecedented times have resulted in an increased number of people needing meals. This serves as a testament to how much can be accomplished together, as one unified community.