Masbia soup kitchen is reporting a severe food shortage, warning that needy families will receive just the barest basics for this weekend’s food packages.
“Sadly, the only protein that families who rely on Masbia will be getting in this weekend’s food packages will be dry beans,” said Alexander Rappaport, Executive Director of Masbia, in an interview with Hamodia on Thursday.
Across its three soup-kitchen locations in Boro Park, Midwood, and Queens, Masbia typically provides more than 2,500 hot meals per week, plus 1,500 weekend food packages for families.
The weekend packages contain nine meals – three days’ worth of food – for each family member; a package for a family of five contains about 45 meals’ worth of food. The packages follow the “My Plate” nutrition guidelines of the USDA, offering an appropriate amount of the various food groups. However, the specific types of food vary greatly, depending on available funds.
“When we are receiving a nice amount of donations, we can give chicken, salmon or tuna as the protein,” said Rappaport. “When our funds are low, the only protein we can give is perhaps peanut butter or beans.
“In a typical week, for a family of five, a weekend food package can have close to 30 pounds of fresh produce; this week, no one will get above 10 pounds. For grains, we try to have a variety of pasta and rice; this week, we will only be able to distribute brown rice – which is cheapest – or maybe some small quantities of anything else still on the shelf.
“And for proteins, we have nothing but chulent mix beans. This Shabbos, 1,500 families will have no chicken or fish or even peanut butter. Just beans.”
According to Rappaport, Masbia donations are generally highest during specific times of year: People tend to donate more around the Yamim Tovim, or toward the end of the year for tax purposes. Currently, as can happen during mid-winter, there is an extreme lack of funds.
The cold weather and impending snowstorm are exacerbating the situation.
“People usually try to get more food before a snowstorm, so we are expecting more families than usual to come [Thursday night],” said Rappaport. “But our inventories are very low.”
Furthermore, the days after a snowstorm are also typically busier than usual, as other charitable food services are often disrupted, so more people turn to Masbia, whose “dedicated volunteers do all they can to make sure we are open, no matter the weather,” said Rappaport. Moreover, panhandlers who usually rely on street-begging for their food needs turn to Masbia around the time of a snowstorm, when they are unable to collect because of the weather and because there are fewer people on the streets to collect from.
Masbia, which relies on donations for more than 80 percent of its budget, is appealing to the community to help it put food on the tables of needy individuals and families.
“Masbia does not keep money sitting in the bank; donations are used to purchase food in a very short amount of time,” says Rappaport. “If you donate money today, within less than a week it will be turned into food in the stomach of a hungry person.”