It’s not news that Passover is expensive.

It demands more food. Special food. Special kosher food.

There is good news for hard-strapped local families this year, however.

The food pantry of the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey will be getting a donation of two tons of food from Stop and Shop.

“Every year, probably for more than the last dozen years or so, we’ve partnered with a local Jewish organization in our market area,” Jim Keenoy explained. Mr. Keenoy is Stop & Shop’s director of marketing and external communication. “It’s part of our bigger and broader objective of being a better neighbor.”

That includes turkey donations before Thanksgiving, and ham donations before Easter — as well as ongoing support for local charities and food banks.

The list of food being donated was drawn up by JFCS. “The vast majority is shelf stable. Some components are frozen or fresh,” Mr. Keenoy said.

Throughout the year, the food pantry stocks shelf stable, fresh and frozen foods, according to Ellen Finkelstein, the marketing director for Jewish Family and Children’s Services. “We support just shy of 1500 people a year,” she said.

She knows that the need is so great that JFCS cannot fix all of it. “We know that one in five children in New Jersey go to bed hungry each night,” she said.

Because it serves so many Jewish families, Passover is the pantry’s busiest time of year.

“Food costs can quadruple,” Ms. Finkelstein said. “For many families, it’s impossible to put adequate Passover food on the table. More people struggle than do during the rest of the year.”

The food bank is open to anyone in the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s catchment area. That’s Bergen, Hudson, and parts of Passaic County. Eighty-two percent of those who use the pantry are from the Jewish community.

Who is eligible for assistance?

“People are able to come for the food pantry help if their family is having a difficult time putting food on the table,” Ms. Finkelstein said.

It starts with a meeting with Faith O’Connor, the JFCS employee who handles referrals. She’ll ask about a family’s situation and look for other ways that the agency might be able to help.

With the Stop and Shop donation, “we are putting word out in the community that this year we have help available for all those families who have a very difficult time making ends meet,” Ms. Finkelstein said. “This contribution from Stop and Shop is putting us in a unique situation, so we can provide kosher for Passover food for a much greater community.”

The food will be delivered on March 28. The gift will reflect a wish list drawn up by JFCS, and it will include canned tuna, grape juice, chicken soup, matzah ball mix, tomato sauce, horseradish, American cheese, and olive oil, among other things. “The full shopping list for stable, fresh, and frozen food,” Ms. Finkelstein said.

She is excited by the donation. “To have a food pantry with that kind of ability going into Passover is unheard of,” she said. In normal years, JFCS can’t be so generous. “Not in this quantity. Not in a million years.”

JFCS has a long-standing relationship with Stop and Shop, which has supported the food pantry over the years.

Ms. Finkelstein said the food pantry preserves the privacy of participants.

“Each appointment is handled on a confidential basis,” she said. “There is only one client in the pantry at a time. You’ll never see someone coming and going. The individual is able to choose the products they like, rather than being given a bag of groceries.”


What: Make a reservation at the food pantry of the Jewish Family and Children’s Services

Who: Anyone in Bergen, Hudson, or parts of Passaic who will have difficulty putting food on the table for Passover

When: Food will be available March 28. Contact now to make a reservation.

How: Email Faith O’Connor at faithoc@jfcsnnj.org or call her at 201-837-9090.