“Eat Feed Love,” the fall luncheon of the Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County, will be an occasion for savoring recipes from the past and healing hunger in the present.
The event will feature a presentation and book signings by New York-based journalist June Feiss Hersh, author of Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival (Ruder Finn Press, 2011).
The luncheon will benefit both the Ohel Avraham Kosher Food Pantry at JF&CS and New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, with 40 percent of the proceeds from book sales and 100 percent of the proceeds from the luncheon going to the food pantry. Hersh plans to donate the remaining 60 percent of the proceeds from book sales to the museum.
The luncheon will be held Tuesday, Oct. 30, at Greenacres Country Club in Lawrenceville.
For Hersh, Recipes Remembered came together at the intersection of her love of cooking, her love for writing, and her commitment to Jewish memory.
“This just felt like a wonderful combination of a number of my interests, skills, and talents,” the author said during a recent phone interview. She added that she interviewed more than 80 Holocaust survivors from throughout Eastern Europe to collect the more than 170 kosher recipes for her cookbook.
“There are several goals to this book,” Hersh said. “First and foremost is to ensure the legacy of the stories and recipes of the Holocaust survivor community. I consider it a tremendous honor to be telling their stories and recreating the cherished memories of this remarkable community.”
Another goal is to bring those stories and memories to as broad an audience as possible, said Hersh, who also wrote The Kosher Carnivore: The Ultimate Meat and Poultry Cookbook (St. Martin’s Press, 2011). “So it becomes not only my mission to preserve these food memories,” she said, “but the mission and obligation of everyone who hears the talk.”
Hersh wrote Recipes Remembered in association with the Museum of Jewish Heritage. “My primary focus was to find a way to do good,” she said. “So this book really speaks to my mantra: ‘Eat well and do good.’ And that’s what this book is all about.”
For Linda Meisel, executive director of JF&CS, doing good for those in need is what the fall luncheon is all about. Since the economic downturn in 2008, she said, demands on the agency’s kosher food pantry have rocketed by some 40 percent.
The JFCS food pantry, funded in part by the Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks, is currently serving 164 families comprising 421 people. The families typically visit the JF&CS pantry twice each month to choose the staple foods they need. This past year, the agency helped those families with 2,323 bags of staple foods, of which 1,349 were donated.
“So we had to buy food to fill the remaining 974 bags,” Meisel said. Over the year, that amounted to a cost of $28,546. In addition, the agency distributed a total of $57,000 in supermarket vouchers to families for the purchase of fresh foods. In all, JFCS spent $85,546 on supermarket vouchers in 2011. To fund those purchases, the agency used $44,279 in targeted donations for the food pantry and made up the shortfall of $41,267 from general donations.
“It’s dire. It’s dire,” Meisel said, “because we are struggling to keep up with the demand. Our major goal is to stabilize families through their pantry use. Our families can save $400 a month in food costs by using the pantry. Then they can pay their bills and their lives will be stable. That’s what we’re most concerned about.”
The explosion of demand on JF&CS’s kosher food pantry raises the issues of food security and food justice, Meisel observed.
“People should be able to have access to healthy food, and they should have enough food,” she said. “I think it’s really important that we as a Jewish community understand that obligation.”
With this in mind, Meisel is hoping for strong community support for “Eat Feed Love.”
“It’s very important. It’s a single, focused fund-raiser,” she said. “Another part of the luncheon is to heighten people’s awareness that this is an issue in our community.
“You have to believe that people care about other people,” she added. “I believe our Jewish community is a giving and caring community, and I believe people will step up when they know what the story is.”