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Elianna Bernstein Tackles Food Insecurity with Serve The Moment

Before the pandemic started, I had plans to leave Los Angeles to start a teaching credential program in Baltimore, MD. By the time the fall of 2020 came around, the pandemic was still at its peak, so I decided to cancel my moving plans. I had extra time on my hands, so I looked into the Serve The Moment program in L.A. As part of the fall cohort, I volunteered virtually with Red Hen Press, which was a very fulfilling experience. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to reapply for the summer cohort in hopes that I could volunteer in person.  

I began my in-person work with the Pico location of SOVA, a food pantry, that is one of the Federation’s partners and Jewish Family Service’s many programs to help those in need. At SOVA, I get the opportunity to address food insecurity in Los Angeles by packing bags of food for clients. I look forward to every shift at SOVA where I start the day by moving bags of onions, potatoes, carrots, and lettuce to a table so that I can assemble produce bags. If we have extra donations of some other vegetable or fruit, I add those to bags too. In collaboration with other volunteers, I pack egg cartons, butter, and cheese as well. Once the bell rings signaling that there is an order to be filled, one volunteer fills shopping carts with pre-packaged bags of cans, snacks, dry goods, toiletries, and miscellaneous items. When the cart is pushed into the kitchen area, we add all perishable items before taking the items out to clients waiting at a designated table outside.   

Not only do I get the chance to form connections with other volunteers at SOVA, but I am also left with the undeniably satisfying feeling that I have helped give people access to food and taken part in alleviating food insecurity in Los Angeles. I love the sense of camaraderie among volunteers at SOVA, and our common interest in helping others meet their basic human needs through offering free, nutritious food. The eagerness to be of service to others is palpable while my fellow volunteers and I fill orders for clients. Another plus is that I get to reflect on my experience with fellow cohort members during our Friday morning Zoom meetings. We are all able to support each other in our work, learn from L.A.-based guest speakers, and form relationships that can continue well beyond the summer! I feel that my experience with Serve The Moment is especially timely because I will be leaving Los Angeles for grad school in August, and working with SOVA is one more chance to give back to my hometown before I depart. I also plan to continue my work during the two weeks between the end of the summer cohort and my move to St. Louis. I am so grateful for my rewarding experience at SOVA and can’t wait to get involved in more meaningful volunteerism in the future!

*Serve the Moment is an immersive experience that mixes urgent community service and meaningful learning, in partnership with Repair the World, the Jewish Service Alliance, and other incredible L.A. service partners. From October 11–December 17, our fall corps members will volunteer (either safely in person or virtually), learn, and reflect together, focusing on social and systemic inequities and rooting the experience in Jewish values.

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