By Harold Kirtz

Harvesting fruit trees throughout the city of Atlanta. Serving as the grocery store for shelters, agencies and programs. Providing kosher food for members of the Jewish community who are in need.

Those are several of the initiatives that will be celebrated and assisted at the fifth annual Hunger Seder at Ahavath Achim Synagogue at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, the sixth night of Passover, which should not conflict with other seders and with yontif restrictions.

While itself a full Pesach meal celebration, this is a seder that puts the lack of food at the heart of the evening.

Harold Kirtz is a member of the Hunger Seder planning committee

Harold Kirtz is a member of the Hunger Seder planning committee

The Jewish tradition commands us to action against hunger:

  • From Leviticus: “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corner of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleaning of thy harvest; thou shalt leave them for the poor, and for the stranger: I am the Lord your G-d.”
  • From Isaiah: “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry?”
  • From Psalms: “May the ruler champion the cause of the poor among the people, give deliverance to the needy and crush those who wrong them.”
  • From Ben Sira: “A small bit of bread may be life to the poor; one who deprives them of it sheds blood.”

Concrete Jungle is an organization that provides food programs with fruit and nuts harvested from hundreds of trees all over Atlanta — in yards, on the side of the road, next to buildings. Most of these trees are untended and ignored, with their bounty being wasted to wildlife within miles of many poor and homeless people struggling to include any fresh produce in their diet.

Concrete Jungle organizes volunteers to pick fruits, nuts and vegetables throughout metro Atlanta and the surrounding areas and donate as much of the harvest as possible to groups serving Atlanta’s poor and hungry.

The Atlanta Community Food Bank is the grocery store for hundreds of shelters, agencies and programs in the metro area. In its 37 years, the ACFB has become a model for the nation. Bill Bolling, its founder and first executive director, just retired.

With new leadership, the food bank is looking for additional ways to serve a continuing critical need in the community. Its paid staff and many volunteers now distribute 60 million of pounds of food every year.

The Kosher Food Pantry is a program of Jewish Family & Career Services. The pantry serves especially those in the Jewish community. Last year the food pantry gave out over 19,000 pounds of food to more than 2,000 individuals.

It serves as the safety net for those in our community who are struggling to meet basic needs, making its Jewish clients feel confident that pantry items meet kashrut standards.

Other programs or organizations on display during the seder will include Second Helpings, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Food Security for America and Helping Feed Atlanta.

The Hunger Seder is a training ground for advocates for those and other hunger and food programs throughout the community. Using this year’s theme of “Small Actions/Big Impact,” we will provide several activities through which individuals can provide food for local homeless people and influence food policy at the national and local levels.

In terms of direct service, one of this year’s activities will be, immediately after the seder for any participant who would like, to package the leftovers from the Passover meal and caravan to an area of town with a homeless population. We will distribute food directly to those in need.

In terms of food policy, we will have the opportunity to advocate for the child nutrition bill that is still winding its way through Congress. The Older Americans Act, which includes food and nutrition programs, is also in need of advocates to get it over the finish line.

Please join us for the Hunger Seder. Strengthen your advocacy vocabulary and techniques. We are taking reservations through Monday, April 25. Go to the Ahavath Achim website (aasynagogue.org) and find the Hunger Seder link (under Events, The Hunger Project, Hunger Seder).