Masbia was founded over ten years ago with the idea of enhancing dignity and eliminating all stigma surrounding soup kitchens and food pantries. In addition to being kosher, they invested in the decor and quality of the meals. At some point, hunger started getting the upper hand, and breadlines started forming at the front of the network’s facilities, thereby having the adverse effect and deterring potential clients. Staff and volunteers tried many different approaches to get rid of it. They were unsuccessful—until this.
“After the Helmsley foundation sponsored and shared with us the Plentiful-App software, that opened up plenty of opportunities to enhance our distribution. Since all intake is digital, it allows us to do distributions more than once a week without being exposed to potential double-dippers. It also has an appointment option built in, but Masbia took it in a different direction. We engaged neighborhood charities and synagogues, where they invite their members for a group appointment once a week at the closest Masbia facility,” said Alexander Rapaport. “Many kollel yungeleit, teachers, rebbeim, single mothers, and parents of large families are now frequenting Masbia. Many of them would have never stepped in the door without this arrangement.”
Having special hours for each synagogue or group drastically reduces the time people need to wait to be served, ensures that no one needs to stand outside, and creates a comradery inside for it to be an uplifting experience. Once inside, the intake is based on one’s cell phone number. No ID needs to be shown and Masbia doesn’t ask for social security numbers or addresses. Everyone is eligible. The amount of food given depends on family size. It is client-choice based, meaning that people choose from a few dozen items to ensure they have what they need for the week.
Recently, at a meeting of Flatbush rabbanim, organized by the Flatbush JCC, Josh Mehlman invited Masbia to present this concept so more synagogues can participate. If you are a gabbai or rabbi of a synagogue and wish to create a partnership with Masbia, please contact 718-972-4446, ext. 201 or firstname.lastname@example.org.