Jessica Chait, managing director of food programs at Met Council, with volunteers at the warehouse.

Four Questions for Jessica Chait

In the weeks leading up to Passover, Met Council on Jewish Poverty, one of UJA’s key partners, distributes over 50,000 pounds of matzah, along with other essentials, to families in need all across New York. Overseeing the operation is Jessica Chait, Met Council’s managing director of food programs. We caught up with her at the Met Council warehouse, where she was knee-deep in eggs.

 

(Q) Can you give us an overview of Met Council’s Passover food distribution program?
(A) Met Council distributes 2 million pounds of kosher for Passover food at over 120 sites this year. Generally speaking, kosher food costs more than non-kosher food, and kosher for Passover costs even more. So people who may not need our help year round do need help around Passover.

(Q) Where does the food come from?
(A) We purchase food in bulk at a significant discount, and we have a partnership with City Harvest and Food Bank of New York. Aside from UJA’s significant support and city and state grants, we also count on people’s generosity. We just received a donation of 50,000 eggs — and we all know that you can’t have Passover without eggs!

(Q) Has the need increased over the years, or remained steady?
(A) The need has definitely increased, and we have more people calling on us. And needs change. We used to provide cases of food for Holocaust survivors from the former Soviet Union, and a small local organization would distribute it. This year, they couldn’t manage the distribution because they’ve become old and frail themselves. So we brought the packages to the survivors directly. We’re a lean operation. Just two drivers on the road, so we really count on volunteers. We’re doing the same for victims of domestic violence. They may feel unsafe being out in the community, so we’re delivering the food right to their homes.

 (Q) You’re dealing with logistics and efficiency — do you ever get emotional about this work?
(A) I do. I just got an email from a client that ended with “May you never have to ask for help.” It really struck me how much this person didn’t want to have to ask for help — and I’m thankful we can be there for them.