Every morning, I get up, walk downstairs to the kitchen, and pause. I imagine if I could not open my well-stocked refrigerator and feed myself and my family a satisfying breakfast.

One Sunday morning each month, after preparing and consuming that breakfast, I head straight over to the Jewish Family & Children’s Service Family Table food pantry at Temple Sinai in Marblehead. When I arrive at Family Table, I assist the team in sorting, packing and delivering groceries to clients who deal daily with food insecurity.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “food insecurity” as “the fact or an instance of being unable to consistently access or afford adequate food.” What would it be like to wake up each day and have to ask yourself the fundamental question: “Will I have enough to eat today?”

JF&CS Family Table assistance directly reduces the fear surrounding food insecurity and instills hope in each client. In the last 10 years, the North Shore branch of JF&CS Family Table has provided hundreds of families in need with nutritious food, along with some toiletry items, Shabbat candles and a loaf of challah. Last year alone, Family Table distributed approximately 4,500 grocery bags, which equates to feeding 80 families per month on the North Shore. This is in addition to the hundreds of families who receive groceries from the Waltham and Canton distribution sites.

As a child, my parents taught me the merit of helping the hungry, and my husband and I have passed that message onto our four children as well. I knew it was important to bring each of them to volunteer at Family Table. Ever since the children were young, they have assisted in providing to those in dire need. Even now, it is still eye-opening for each of us to witness the enormous deficit that these clients face.

After packing up individualized grocery bags for each assigned client, I would drive our car to the client’s address and my children would jump out and deliver the grocery bags to the door. The experience helped shape them into compassionate and giving people. To this day, when my children are back home from college or work, we participate together, as a family, in JF&CS Family Table.

JF&CS Family Table

As one would expect, COVID-19 has significantly impacted these clients who already face hardships. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a 45% increase in clients requiring assistance from Family Table’s North Shore division! How does an organization adjust?

To meet this increase, the Family Table North Shore location has expanded its storage and servicing space at Temple Sinai in Marblehead. Additionally, Family Table’s central facility in Waltham has recently completed a large construction project to house the cold and dry storage of food.

JF&CS has addressed the infrastructure issues but what is still essential to the operation are volunteers. With this heightened demand, JF&CS Family Table program needs people willing to donate two to three hours of their time once a month on Sunday, or as their schedule permits, to help those who are unable to help themselves.

I ask you, the next time you open your own well-stocked refrigerator, to please consider giving of your time and making a difference in the quality of life for these families and individuals.

Online registration, proof of vaccination for those age 5-plus and a CORI background check are required to volunteer. Please visit jfcsboston.org/familytable to learn more, or email familytable@jfcsboston.org with questions.

I hope to see you there!

Karen Rosenberg lives in Marblehead with her husband, David, and their four children. She is an active Family Table volunteer and supports various JF&CS services in her community.