Talking About JFS

Reps. Soto, Frost join roundtable discussion addressing food insecurity in Central Florida

By Daryl Matthews, & Charles Frazier,

August 01, 2023 at 5:43 pm EDT

ORLANDO, Fla. — Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida hosted an in-depth discussion Tuesday about how to put and keep food on the table for thousands of families.

Officials focused on specific needs in surrounding counties and why federal assistance programs are critical to helping meet them.

A wide range of experts were represented at Tuesday’s meeting including healthcare officials, farmers and other organizations that help feed families and working parents. They all agree that more needs to be done to end the fight for the basic need for food.

“These are real world situations for me, and I can’t wait a year for y’all to make a decision. It’s a fight. How is this possible? We’re talking about food,” President of Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando Philip Flynn said to the panel. “People need to eat, so my solutions are, I don’t have any solutions. I can only save the person that’s standing in front of me, and I can’t do it without the food.”

Flynn says his organization is feeding 122 people per day. He went to Tuesday’s meeting to speak directly to U.S. Representatives Maxwell Frost (D-Orlando) and Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee), who are both working to pass a new Farm Bill that helps keep food prices fair for farmers and consumers while ensuring an adequate food supply throughout the country.

“I understand,” Frost said at the meeting. “It’s unfortunate that we go back and we’re dealing with a Republican majority that is fighting tooth and nail to take away money from families.”

More than half a million Central Floridians face some kind of food insecurity. 300,000 of them are fed through the Second Harvest Food Bank every day.

The proposed farm bill would help make it easier on struggling families, but Rep. Soto says it all comes down to one thing: funding.

“It’s always about money unfortunately,” Rep. Soto said. “How much to spend on resources to make sure seniors, make sure veterans, make sure children and people with disabilities have this safety net. The farm bill will expire in September. Rep. Soto says the new bill could take a year to pass through Congress before being signed by the President.

View the video here.

The Pearlman Food Pantry at Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando is as busy as ever — working diligently to ensure those in need can get vital food assistance for themselves and their families.

“So far this year, JFS Orlando’s pantry has distributed record levels of food not seen in our 45-year history” says Philip Flynn III, president of Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando. According to Flynn, four of the past six months have exceeded our previous record of 447 sets, with the highest being 581 in May 2023.” A set is enough groceries to feed a family of 4 for a week. “If this trend continues, we estimate that by the end of 2023 we will provide close 250,000 meals to those who depend on our assistance year-round.”

The Pearlman Food Pantry, located at 2100 Lee Road in Winter Park, provides food equal to almost 23,000 meals per month. Our goal is to “take food insecurity off the table” so people can focus on taking care of their family’s other needs like education and their wellbeing” added Flynn. “If you don’t have enough food on your table, it’s hard to think about how you’re going to find a job or take care of your kids.

Current economic woes are weighing on low to moderate-income families who are dealing with inflation while Covid-era benefits have ended. Food insecurity has far-reaching implications, not just on families, but on the broader economy.

In Central Florida, nearly 1 in 8 people are living with food insecurity, according to Feeding America. Many working families are forced to make the difficult choice between paying for food, medical care, and utilities with 1 in 3 people facing hunger unlikely to even qualify for SNAP.

Not having consistent nutrition leads to chronic illnesses such as obesity and diabetes. Those conditions can result in higher medical bills, reduced worker productivity, days off from work and increased poverty.

Most worrisome is that 1 in 5 children live with food insecurity. Being food insecure at any age can be harmful, but it can be devastating for children. It can stunt their growth, affect their ability to learn and forces them to withdraw from social interaction. The consequences and costs of food insecurity for children of all ages make addressing the issue an economic and social imperative as research demonstrates links between food insecurity and poor child health and behavioral outcomes at every age.

This significant increase shows not just how essential our food pantry is to the community, but how critical the persistent need for food assistance is these days. JFS recently expanded the Pearlman Food Pantry to nearly double the size to about 600 square feet and added new equipment that makes it easier to distribute larger amounts of food. “This expansion is part of our long-term strategy focused on making access to healthy food more convenient and consistent”, Flynn said recently.

If you are in need of food assistance, please call (407) 644-7593 or visit If you would like to support JFS Orlando and their FAMILY of Services, please visit ask for Aaron Bernstein.

Aaron Bernstein (L), director of development for JFS Orlando, is shown here with Jeff Hayward (R), president and CEO for Heart of Florida United Way.

Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando is pleased to announce it has been awarded a $50,000 grant from Heart of Florida United Way to continue supporting our Central Florida community, including ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households.

“Our local nonprofit agencies have been and will continue to work tirelessly to keep Central Floridians facing insurmountable challenges afloat,” said Jeff Hayward, President and CEO of HFUW. “Given ALICE households are already one crisis away from financial ruin, many have either depleted or have limited savings to make ends meet. These investments in our partner agencies allow for more support to ALICE families with the services needed to get them through a difficult time.”

Individuals and families from all over the tri-county area-Orange, Osceola, and Seminole-come to JFS Orlando seeking basic needs and stability. Whether it is learning the tools to avoid homelessness and achieve long-term stability through their Family Stabilization Program, food assistance through their Pearlman Food Pantry, or mental health care through their Counseling services, JFS Orlando’s family of services is there to support our community and get them the help they need.

“The hardships and cost of living for those we serve in our community continued to grow this year,” said Philip Flynn, executive director of JFS Orlando. “We are thankful for our partnership with Heart of Florida United Way to help meet the increasing need for our relief services.”

To learn more about JFS Orlando and their family of services, visit or follow them @JFSorlando.

Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando leads collaborative community effort to house Ukrainian refugees in our Central Florida community.

Recently, St. Mary Protectress Ukrainian Catholic Church in Apopka became aware of a Ukrainian refugee family of four, with a toddler and newborn, few belongings, and no place to stay. Father Roman Kuzminskyi reached out to JFS Orlando to help the family in urgent need of assistance.

JFS sprang into action and mobilized the community. Through JFS Orlando’s relationship with Shalom Orlando, the newly merged Roth Family JCC and Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, a generous donor provided a two-bedroom home to live in for as long as the family needs. JFS volunteer Eduard Kotlyar translated between JFS, the refugee family, and the donors. Then the Congregation of Reform Judaism Social Action team, along with the donors coordinated with JFS to fully furnish the new home and provide everything a young family could need, from clothing to car seats. JFS Orlando will provide the family with diapers and baby formula, and groceries through their Pearlman Food Pantry.

“This is just another example of the strength of community,” said JFS Orlando Director of Development Aaron Bernstein. “We’re grateful to our partners at Shalom Orlando and CRJ for their unwavering support.” Shalom Orlando CEO Keith Dvorchik stated, “We are excited to continue our partnership with JFS Orlando to provide for those in need. Together there is nothing we can’t accomplish as a community.”

CRJ Rabbi Steve Engel added that “We’re honored we are able to collaborate with our valued community partners to help our Ukrainian friends going through the unimaginable, across the world and in our own backyard.” JFS Orlando is proud to lead the community’s efforts to continue providing humanitarian assistance to our new neighbors and all those in need in our growing community. To learn more about JFS Orlando’s family of services, visit or follow them on social media @JFSorlando.

JFS Orlando’s Family Stabilization Program is a preventative, six-month case management program. It is designed to help individuals and families obtain self-sufficiency by teaching them critical skills and tools to improve financial management, employability, family stability and mental health functioning, as well as maintain or improve housing.

Program participants have special access to several services at no cost, including food assistance, financial education workshops, employability skill training, mental health counseling, and legal guidance. FSP is available to households from Orange and Seminole counties.

“I decided to participate in FSP because I thought it would be beneficial for me and my family. I felt like it would be a good way to get back on track,” said Regan, former JFS Orlando client. “My case manager helped me a lot. If you need help, they have a resource that can get you the help that you need!”

To apply, call 407-644-7593 ext. 250 (City of Orlando or Seminole County) or ext. 236 (Orange County). To learn more about FSP and JFS Orlando, visit

Shana Tova! Celebrate the New Year by joining JFS Orlando in their annual Hope Challenge. Beginning September 15th through October 20th, every dollar donated to Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando will be generously matched by the David & Audrey Pearlman Philanthropic Fund, with a total match of up to $20,000.

As we enter this special time of reflection and renewal, we at Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando would like to thank all who have supported us this past year as we continue to grow in our commitment to our community. JFS Orlando delivers hope to our community through our FAMILY of services, not just during the holidays but EVERY day.

One in seven people, among them one in five children, in Central Florida cannot afford basic food staples. To keep up with the increasing demand for food assistance, JFS Orlando has nearly completed the expansion of the Pearlman Food Pantry started earlier this year. The added space, along with the addition of a state-of-the-art carton flow shelving system and a big 3-door fridge, allows us to provide more fresh, healthy food quickly and efficiently to those struggling with hunger.

But it’s not just our Pantry that’s been active and growing. JFS therapists are seeing more individuals than last year. Our RIDE Program is at capacity and currently has a new client waitlist. Our Family Stabilization Program is as busy as ever and will begin its new application cycle in October. Our Community Rabbi is meeting the rising need for spiritual services. Our Kobrin Family Scholarship students are staying hard at work starting a new semester at UCF.

The demand for our FAMILY of services remains high, but we are maximizing our efforts to raise hope and build a stronger community together thanks to our supporters…and we’re not done yet! We ask you to join us in our annual High Holy Days’ Hope Challenge, where every donation to JFS Orlando will be generously matched dollar for dollar by the David & Audrey Pearlman Philanthropic Fund, with a total match of up to $20,000. To donate, please visit

On behalf of the JFS Orlando Board of Directors, staff, and clients, may you and your loved ones be inscribed for a sweet 5783.

Philip Flynn III – Executive Director

Marty Sherman – Board President

To better serve the community and keep up with increasing demand for food assistance, JFS Orlando began the expansion of its Pearlman Food Pantry earlier this year. The added space – along with the addition of a state-of-the-art carton flow shelving system and a big three-door fridge – allows JFS to provide more fresh, healthy food quickly and efficiently to those in need. But it’s not just the pantry that’s been growing…

On Sunday, Aug. 14th, the The JFS Orlando Pantry Van made a special appearance at the Congregation of Reform Judaism’s Welcome Back Block Party.

“Our congregation appreciates the JFS Pantry Van pop-up for literally bringing the mitzvah of tzedakah onto our campus,” said Rabbi Steve Engel. “Meeting people where they are and building partnerships like the one between JFS and CRJ is what our community needs more of.”

Members filled the van with generously donated items most needed by JFS clients, totaling 286 lbs. of baby diapers, formula, and so much more.

“I was so proud to see my fellow congregants at CRJ donating so many diapers to JFS on Sunday,” said Eric Adelson, Board member, National Diaper Bank Network. “This time of year is so crucial for diaper donations, with so many kids going back to school. Most daycares will not accept kids without diapers, so every diaper really does make a difference. Thank you to JFS for starting the school year off so strongly!”

JFS Orlando is grateful to CRJ for hosting the Van and for their continued partnership to build a stronger community together. Keep an eye out for the JFS Pantry Van’s next popup, it might be at an upcoming event near you…

To inquire about the Van for your next event, contact Aaron Bernstein at or 407-644-7593 ext. 234.

Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando (JFS Orlando) is proud to announce that its Restock & Rebuild Challenge raised over $63,000, which is nearly DOUBLE the amount raised in their 2021 campaign.

This year during the Challenge, which ran from March 15th through April 30th, the community’s donations made twice the impact for those in need thanks to The Weiner Family and The Winter Park Health Group, who generously matched donations dollar for dollar.

The funds raised will help JFS Orlando continue to meet the increasing needs of the community now and in the future, including doubling the capacity of their Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry, adding therapists in their Counseling, Growth, and Development Program, expanding their RIDE Program to address senior transportation needs, and improving life and financial skills through their Family Stabilization Program.

JFS Orlando would like to thank all who donated to the Restock & Rebuilt Challenge, The Weiner Family and The Winter Park Wealth Group, as well as their community partners who participated and helped spread the word. Your support is helping to build a stronger community together!

To learn more about JFS Orlando, visit or follow them on
social media @JFSorlando.

Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando continues to partner with Central Florida Hillel to better meet the mental health needs of UCF students.

Since last August, JFS Orlando therapist Shaina White Williams, MSW has been available for open counseling hours at Hillel. She meets with students for one-on-one support oncampus and virtually, developing a sessions timeline that is therapeutically appropriate for each student. She and a partner therapist also provide group therapy during monthly Wellness Workshops. Williams has become a familiar face for students in the UCF Hillel community by also attending weekly Hillel programs like Shabbat dinners, Market Wednesdays, and other social gatherings.

During this past semester’s Wellness Workshops, students started exploring different topics, including self-care, the impact of social media, how to work toward a growth mindset, change as our constant, and stress management. A recent workshop ended with a three-minute dance party that helped students recognize the impact a little physical movement and music can have on one’s mood and anxiety — a fabulous self-care tactic. This semester concluded successfully with a Wellness Walk around campus along with sessions on mindfulness and deep breathing.

“There is a clear demand for access to therapy, and our partnership has proven to be a helpful aid for Hillel students,” said Williams. “Our goal is for small changes and tweaks to add up and help students not just survive their college experience, but to thrive.”

To learn more about JFS Orlando and their partnership with UCF Hillel, visit or follow them on social media @JFSorlando.

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