A communal venture is helping to offset the rising costs of kosher for Passover food.
The one-day event, organized by Our Giving Kitchen, will allow registrants to “pay what they want” for produce, packaged and prepared food. In that way, people can acquire the same products, and nobody will know what anyone else is paying, said Rabbi Chezky Rosenfeld, director of Our Giving Kitchen.
Scheduled for Sunday, April 2, at Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh’s new Greenfield location, the program is designed to reduce stigma around food insecurity, Rosenfeld explained.
Participants can pay what they’d like for $150-$200 worth of coupons, then redeem the coupons for holiday staples, including chicken, kugel and meatloaf.
Rosenfeld expects larger families to use the coupons for produce, and singles or elderly couples to redeem the vouchers for cooked items.
Established in 2021 as a response to the pandemic, Our Giving Kitchen relies on volunteer and donor support. The pre-Pesach pop-up store is no different, Rosenfeld said.
Produce will be bought or donated by nearby vendors, and cooked foods will be prepared at Chabad of Squirrel Hill by volunteers.
Rabbi Yisroel Altein, co-director of Chabad of Squirrel Hill, said he was happy to share his sizable kitchen.
Apart from the fact that the space will be cleaned and ready for the holiday well before any afikomen is eaten, Passover is a time where Jewish people are instructed to take extra care of those around them. There is a law, known as Maos Chitim, which dictates an “obligation on a community to provide food for all in the community,” he said.
Described as early as 1,600 years ago in the Jerusalem Talmud, Maos Chitim serves as a mechanism whereby Jewish communities collect money before the holiday, thus ensuring poorer members could still have matzah on Passover.
The concept of providing food for those less fortunate is important year-round, but “Pesach is the most appropriate time to focus on it,” Altein said.
A team of volunteers will begin cooking kosher for Passover food at Chabad of Squirrel Hill in the coming days. Until then, Rosenfeld is seeking additional help.
“We are still open for sponsorships and donations, as we don’t have full costs covered,” he said.
Our Giving Kitchen is not intended to “replace the other wonderful community organizations and programs,” Rosenfeld said. “This is just a supplement.”
Anyone who has recently scoured shelves for bargains or frustratingly perused a grocery store aisle knows inflation continues to be a problem. Though the price of fruits and vegetables fell 0.5% during January, meat, poultry, fish and eggs rose by 0.7%. According to the same Feb. 14 report from the Labor Department, the price of eggs rose 8.5% from the previous month.
For food executives, the outlook is “grim,” as Passover food costs are expected to trump last year’s by 12%, Kosher Today reported.
“With rising food prices, and kosher food prices which have gone up more, we’ve seen that the need is great, Rosenfeld said. “There are families in Pittsburgh, even with steady incomes, where things have gotten rough. If we can provide a little relief and add to the joy of the holiday, then that’s what we’re here for.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.