The emergency food provider is distributing Clorox, soap and more Kosher items for families in need.
Along with the usual cans of soup and produce, Yad Ezra clients are now receiving Clorox, bottles of soap and other disinfectants in their food packages.
“At this moment in time, we are able to get everything we need other than Purell,” Yad Ezra Executive Director Lea Luger told the Jewish News Wednesday. “But the truth of the matter is soap and water is really better than something like Purell.”
As an emergency food provider that has served the Jewish community in Southeast Michigan for 30 years, Yad Ezra is ready to help families that may face food shortages or hardships due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
As of Thursday, March 19, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 336 cases and three deaths in Michigan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 10,442 cases in the U.S. Thursday afternoon.
“We are basically stock piling food so that in the event the increase (in cases) is dramatic as time goes on, we are committed to ensuring that we have food to give to any family in need,” said Luger, a West Bloomfield resident.
The food pantry serves about 1,250 families a month. As of Wednesday, staff had not seen an increase in families seeking assistance.
“But we anticipate there will be an increase, and for that reason, have been ordering more groceries,” Luger says.
Yad Ezra is working with the Detroit Chesed Project — which provides lunches for children of families in need — to order more Kosher items, especially kid-friendly foods like chicken nuggets and fish sticks.
“These aren’t things we would typically order and distribute,” Luger said. “But in light of the fact the schools have closed, and we’re cognizant of the fact that a lot of these families have children who relied on the school breakfast and lunch programs, we want to do what we can to help supplement those food needs.”
Luger said she is also working closely with Jewish Family Services, Hebrew Free Loan and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, which are all “increasing efforts to work together” and “tackle” the situation.
“Social Service agencies across the entire Jewish community have been working in close collaboration to ensure that support is available to those in need, and to anticipate future needs that may arise — whether it be food related, financial, or anything else of concern,” said Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit President Beverly Liss. “This is clearly a difficult and unprecedented time, but Jewish Detroit has always been a place where Jewish agencies, congregations and other organizations work together on behalf of the most vulnerable members.”
In terms of physically getting food to clients, Yad Ezra has restructured distribution procedures. A typical serving session would have a couple dozen volunteers, but volunteers have been limited to 10 at one time, following the government’s gathering recommendation.
Distribution at the Berkley location has also moved to the parking lot. When a client comes to pick up food, a volunteer will meet him or her at their car and place the package in their trunk.
“We’re limiting physical contact as much as we can,” Luger said, explaining only the warehouse manager is packing perishable items at this time.
“We don’t have a play book, we’re creating it as we go,” she added.
Luger has served as executive director since 2012 and acted as co-director from 1997-2011. No one has experienced a pandemic like this, but Luger said the closest crisis she can compare it to was the 2009 recession when Yad Ezra saw an influx of families seeking food assistance.
The coronavirus “is more challenging,” she said, because there’s a health component that impacts how the organization distributes food, especially to older people who are more at risk of contracting the virus.
“Our client base is primarily older,” she said, “so we have to really go that extra mile to ensure that everyone’s health is not jeopardized, while at the same time getting them the food they need.”
Want to help?
Yad Ezra is taking volunteers.
Contact volunteer coordinator Darlene Rothman at email@example.com or call 248-548-3663.
2850 W. 11 Mile Road, Berkley