The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is a year away from launching a supermarket-style food pantry at the Klein JCC, but apparently Israel's Knesset is already interested in the project -- and the potential lessons for combating hunger in Israel.
Federation CEO Ira M. Schwartz touted the agency's planned Choice Food Program in a Feb. 27 meeting of the Knesset Caucus for Nutritional Security in Jerusalem.
"It is a more efficient and dignified way to address the food insecurity problem, locally and elsewhere. It is a model that can easily be replicated," Schwartz said in an email.
The initiative, now in the fundraising stages, will supplement or replace more traditional food distribution programs, where clients receive daily hot meals or food packages. Instead, clients will be able to "shop" in the pantry as if they were in a supermarket. The program will also emphasize healthier food.
Schwartz's presentation came about in a last-minute fashion. He was in Jerusalem for the Jewish Agency for Israel's board of governors' meeting. Latet, an Israeli humanitarian organization that receives funding from Federation, was taking part in the Knesset caucus discussion on food insecurity, a major issue in Israel that was highlighted last summer with a wave of protests focusing on social and economic justice.
Latet invited Federation officials to the meeting. Jeri Zimmerman, who directs Federation's Center for Israel and Overseas and was with Schwartz, said that seven Knesset members attended the session.
Schwartz said Yedid, the advocacy and social service organization that helped establish the Knesset caucus, has expressed interest in introducing the food choice concept to Israel.