Purim Food Drive Gets Set for Second Year

The large cardboard box outside the classrooms of the preschool at the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center in Nassau County was a telltale sign of Purim last year. Because besides learning about hamantaschen and the story of Queen Esther, 170 children ages 2, 3, and, 4 were learning about the Pack It Up for Purim food drive and how they could help New Yorkers who are hungry.

Food packages collected for the Pack It Up for Purim food drive last year. Food packages collected for the Pack It Up for Purim food drive last year.

And the big brown box that held the food collected by the parents and children is about to show up again, says Allison Okun, Sid Jacobson’s assistant director of early childhood, as the school gets ready to participate in the Pack It Up for Purim food drive this year.

Sid Jacobson JCC was one of 50 organizations and several thousand volunteers that participated in Pack It Up for Purim in 2011, the first year of the initiative. It is a communitywide food drive through UJA-Federation of New York, AmeriCorps, and the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency.

The food drive invites local synagogues, Jewish day schools, Hillels, and communal agencies to donate nutritious food packages for New Yorkers in need throughout New York City, Westchester, and Long Island.

Plans for the 2012 Pack It Up for Purim food drive are already in full swing. Food packages can be delivered to a drop-off sites from Tuesday, February 14th, to Tuesday, February 28th. You can check online for information about Pack It Up for Purim package shopping lists, food drop-off sites, and more.

"In the spirit of the Purim holiday, Pack It Up for Purim is a great way for people to come together for a good cause," says Alexandra Levy, an AmeriCorps service member placed at UJA-Federation. "It's really fulfilling to see families, seniors, and Hillels, as well as other community organizations, take part."

Levy and 13 AmeriCorps service members, working at various agencies within our network, are helping to organize this large-scale volunteer initiative.

This Year’s Goal: Collecting 2,000 Food Packages

In 2011, collecting 1,000 food packages was the goal. This year’s goal is set for a 100 percent increase: 2,000 food packages. The food packages are inspired by the Purim tradition, mishloach manot, offering food to a neighbor, and will be distributed to people in need through food pantries and other outlets. The packages also include healthy recipes.

At the Sid Jacobson JCC, Okun remembers, enthusiasm ran high for the Pack It Up for Purim food drive: "The children helped decorate boxes that held the food packages, and the entire JCC embraced the Pack It Up for Purim project, so the children saw the food collection boxes all over the place, not just in their school wing."

Okun explains that a food drive is something young children can understand.

"They may not know true hunger, but they knew what it’s like to be hungry and waiting for lunch," she says. "And the kids knew that they were helping people nearby who needed help."

At at least one place last year, the project inspired food donations long after Purim. Last year at the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center, Levy notes, interest in Pack It Up for Purim was so great that it developed into an ongoing sustainable food pantry.

Whether you're young or old, or somewhere in between, Pack It Up for Purim is a volunteer project that everyone can pitch in and join.

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