Guest Column

By Harold Kirtz

On the seventh night of Pesach, the community will celebrate by holding a seder to empower a cadre of advocates in the fight against hunger. This exciting commemoration of the passage from March 20 Coverslavery to freedom will mark further efforts to remove the enslavement of hunger and food insecurity.

This seder will be held at and co-sponsored by Ahavath Achim Synagogue on Thursday, April 9, at 6:30. It is also co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta (JCRC), The Temple, Temple Emanu-El, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Concrete Jungle, ModernTribe, Gideon’s Promise, Atlanta Food & Farm, Helping Feed Atlanta, and Jewish Family & Career Services’ Kosher Food Pantry.

At the national level, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger are co-sponsors. Others will be joining in.

The goal is to educate attendees to become advocates for food and hunger programs at the federal and local levels. Statistics show that 19 percent of the people living in Georgia are food insecure, meaning that they don’t always know where they will find their next meal. A more jarring number is that 28 percent of Georgia children live in food-insecure households — well over one in every four Georgia children.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as the lack of access to adequate food resulting from the lack of money and other resources.

Many communities suffer from this problem. But the problem is very pronounced here in Georgia and in Atlanta, even close to home. From 2000 to 2010, the number of poor individuals in the Atlanta suburbs more than doubled, growing by 122%. The number of people, including Jews, who have been serviced lately by the Kosher Food Pantry at JF&CS has increased.

Another program of JF&CS is the Moas Chitim Fund to help people purchase food specifically at Passover.

A snapshot of the people served by the Atlanta Community Food Bank — their circumstances, the challenges they face and the choices they are forced to make living on extremely limited household incomes — further highlights the complexity of the problem. An ACFB report reveals telling facts about the employment and income situations of the food bank’s clients:

  • 56% of client households report monthly incomes of less than $1,000.
  • 28% of respondents have faced foreclosure or eviction in the past five years.
  • Among all households served by ACFB agencies and programs, 59% have at least one member who has been employed in the past year.

The problem with food insecurity is the difficulty of combating it. Even many people who are employed face this issue.

One of the themes promoted by the JCPA is child nutrition in a multipronged approach. This year will include efforts to pass in Congress the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, which seeks to improve child nutrition and reduce childhood hunger. The participants in the seder will be asked and educated on how to advocate for this reauthorization.

The co-sponsors of this year’s Hunger Seder represent an array of folks who service the community in a variety of ways. From those who will be advocates to those who actually grow or pick food to be delivered to food programs, both Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and congregations will come together to work on this important issue. Come and join us (register at concretejungle.com).

Harold Kirtz is a past president of JCRC.