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Jewish congregation takes food distribution to the streets of Tampa

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Posted at 12:23 PM, Jul 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-31 15:47:00-04

TAMPA, Fla. — What started as a one-time food distribution event has turned into a weekly community outreach.

Once a week, on the corner of Armenia Avenue and State Street, you can find hundreds of boxes of fruits and vegetables stacked up on the curb, waiting to be loaded into cars and taken to Floridians in need.

“They feel the hope, they feel the compassion, they feel the love. I think it’s almost like a hope center on the corner. They see us and they light up, they just know that somebody is here, somebody cares,” said volunteer Nicole Puentes.

Thanks to donations from Simply Fresh and Farmers to Families the Chabad Chai of South Tampa has been able to consistently conduct the food distribution every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“This isn’t only for the Jewish community this is for everyone in the greater Tampa area in the entire city, we are all in this together,” said Menachem Rappaport, a member of Chabad Chai of South Tampa.

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“What you see here are people from all over, some part of ministries, some are part of Jewish culture, some are just off the street that want to help out,” said Puentes.

Denise Leigh has been unemployed since March. She said seeing the bright green boxes on the corner brings a smile to her face every time.

“People fall in the cracks during these times,” said Leigh. “I just happened to be driving by last week and it was here and I grabbed a couple of extra boxes for some needy people and it went over so well.”

Every week what’s inside the box is a surprise, but what we know for sure is it’s always healthy.

“We opened up a box today, it’s plums, it’s vegetables, it’s salad dressings, it’s wonderful,” said Diane Levine. “There are a lot of people in need and it’s just a good feeling to give back.”

“Nutrition, absolutely nutrition, every day we need at least 2,000 calories, this helps,” said a man named Joseph who was picking up a much-needed box for himself.