MADA’s Meals a Partager program has officially been up and running for ONE YEAR! We have cooked, packed and delivered over 500,000 meals to the vulnerable in our community hit hard by COVID-19 through Meals a Partager, not including all of our other food security services as well, which would bring that number even higher.
This accomplishment is incredible and it is with great thanks to our devoted volunteers, our partners Federation CJA and the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal, support from Centraide, Fondation du Grand Montreal, Moisson Montreal, the Government of Canada, and CFCC, and of course, our valued community donors that we are able to celebrate this milestone.
Keep reading to know all about how this program came to be, how it has evolved, and the difference it has made over the past year!
While ideally we wish there was no need for a program such as Meals a Partager, this past year has shown us just how much it was needed and still is throughout our community. It all started back in when the world was suddenly faced with the terrifying threat of COVID-19 around the time of Passover, in April 2020. The annual Passover community seders, serving over 2500 community members, were abruptly cancelled. The phones were ringing off the hook at MADA as thousands of anxious callers worried about the upcoming seders.
Due to COVID, MADA rethought our distribution approach last year to enable those thousands in the community who were suddenly stranded alone to be served by the new “Seder-in-a-Box” service, which included all religious food items necessary in celebrating traditional Passover Seder meals. Over 5000 seder plates and meals were miraculously prepared and assembled within days, all kosher for Passover!
The challenge of this project was tremendous. Left only with a skeleton staff, we had to recruit new workers and volunteers at the height of the pandemic. However, our community forged together, and with an incredible outpouring of care, compassion, support and love, MADA was able to meet the challenge, serving those who needed it most. This service’s main recipients included the elderly and those with disabilities, who sadly, are always among the lowest-income groups – along with households who’ve seen family income plummet while food prices skyrocket because of the pandemic.
A new reality set in after Passover as Montreal was still in an emergency state. The crisis was far from over, with seniors and compromised families still in lockdown. How would they be able to access food? Thus, Meals A Partager was launched! MADA’s kitchen started distributing 12,000 meals a week to the most vulnerable and the elderly. With thanks to the devoted kitchen staff and community volunteers, this project will continue until the pandemic disappears. MADA is grateful to the community donors, government agencies, the Jewish Community Foundation, and Federation CJA, all of which stepped up to support, encourage, partner and collaborate with us during this crucial time.
How did MADA reach new levels of meal delivery during COVID 19? By applying innovation to all aspects of our operation, including delivery, meal preparation, recruitment and management of volunteers, while successfully reducing the stigma of clients asking for charity. Lessons learned will continue after the pandemic, so in fact, COVID-19 is enabling community support organizations like MADA to raise our game.
Through these programs, MADA has also been able to further break the stigma of asking for help as restrictions on gatherings now make calling for individual assistance a necessity. Whether it be from isolation due to high risk, or financial burden from job losses, or something else, no one was alone in their struggles and we have done our best to make it clear that we are here to help.
MADA’s innovation has not only helped our clients, but reinforced volunteer support. All health guidelines for Covid-19 are being strictly observed for any staff and volunteers inside the MADA building, including the use of gloves, masks and hand sanitizer. As well, MADA has converted our social hall into a volunteer room to accommodate the increased demand for our services and provide a large, well ventilated space with sufficient social distancing.
According to the Covid-19 Crisis Report by Food Banks Canada, many food banks experienced huge drops in volunteers, but this has not occurred at MADA. Since the start of COVID, with the help of our devoted volunteers, we have prepared, packed and delivered over 600,000 meals to families, the elderly, and isolated or quarantined through our Meals a Partager and continued Shabbat to Share services. Thankfully, MADA has experienced a tremendous amount of unwavering effort, devotion and dedication from our lay leaders, volunteers and supporters during this crucial time and we still require all of that support as the need continues.
While there is no one secret to success during a pandemic, MADA aims to set an example of positivity, inspiration, and innovation during difficult times, and the Meals a Partager program has definitely been a success in aiding the community get through these hard times over the past year. We thank all who continue to help us accomplish our mission of goodness and kindness, leaving no one behind.
The innovation and expansion that MADA has gone through in the past year is unbelievable, but that is not stopping us from growing even more in order to continue servicing the people in our community who continue to need help. As vaccinations increase and Covid hopefully lessens its effect on society, MADA doesn’t want the people who are still vulnerable and trying to get back into society to be forgotten. There are many plans for the future and continued innovation that we are working on and we cannot wait to share the journey with all of you.