Kosher meals on wheels benefits seniors, others

Kevin Boland would not be able to sleep at night if he knew a veteran was looking for a kosher meal and couldn’t get one.

“They deserve that,” said Boland, who is the director of social services at Milwaukee-based Jewish Family Services. 

The agency offers a number of programs to support members of the community — Jewish and not. Its services span housing, counseling and social services. Boland oversees the latter, which administers a program that ensures local veterans and anyone else seeking a kosher meal will have access.

Rachel Bat-Abraham of Milwaukee – shown here at a community group meeting sponsored by Jewish Family Services and held at Einstein Bros. Bagels, 544 E. Ogden St. – is a regular user of the kosher mobile meals program. Bat-Abraham is blind, so the program helps a lot by delivering her meals.

Since 2001, JFS has operated a kosher mobile meals program that delivers food to anyone who requests it. The three main populations who use the program are individuals, the Department of Veterans Affairs and hospitals — predominantly those in the Advocate Aurora Health network.

Boland said the program is not a money-maker for JFS, and demand has declined since its inception 18 years ago. Through the end of August this year, the agency says it served 956 meals. Individuals purchased the majority, representing 694 of the meals served.

“It’s important that we provide that, whether it’s only for three people or 300 people,” Boland said. “I don’t know where else people would go.”

The program is a partnership among JFS, Ovation’s Jewish Home and Care Center and Va’Ad Hakashrus of Milwaukee.

Meals are cooked under dietary supervision; they are prepared fresh, then frozen so customers can cook the food as needed. Boland said customers can order either dairy or meat meals. Shabbat and Passover meals are also available.

More info on meals on wheels: Contact Kevin Boland at Jewish Family Services: KBoland@JfsMilw.org or 414-390-5800.

Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin delivers the food weekly.

“Our delivery guy is wonderful,” Boland said. “(He) delivers, sits and chats for a little bit, checks in. So it’s another set of eyes that’s meeting with some of our individuals that need that.”

The consumer base tends to skew more mature, he said, and some of the customers may not be in a position to travel to Chicago for their kosher needs. Some may not be able to cook either, he said, making the option to microwave the meal important. 

Rachel Bat-Abraham of Milwaukee, for example, uses the kosher mobile meals program weekly. As a person who is blind, it’s a real help to her to not have to go shopping. She fills her freezer with seven meals weekly.

“They are more than just good,” she said. “I think they are fantastic.”

Boland said JFS charges a fee between $5 and $10.50 per meal on a sliding scale.

The program is unique, Boland said, because JFS does not place an age-based threshold on who can participate. Meals on Wheels, another meal delivery service available in Milwaukee County, sets eligibility at individuals who are at least 60 years of age.

Because the program does not bring funds into JFS, Boland said philanthropic support powers its continuation. The kosher mobile meals program receives support from the Colton Charities Philanthropic Fund, for example.

If the service were to receive enough financial backing from donors, Boland said he would use the money to market the program and grow it into a bigger resource for the community. 

“It really comes down to that balance of philanthropic donations, being able to balance the cost so the people that are getting it are able to afford it and being able to be sustainable,” he said.