The LJD Jewish Family & Community Services was founded in 1917 to assist people in need of food and emergency shelter. One hundred and seven years later, JFCS continues its mission, creating a lasting tradition of nourishing the community.

Since our agency’s establishment, JFCS has served meals, groceries, and other food supplies to individuals and families. In a recent review of archived reports, we discovered that our agency provided hundreds of meals, grocery orders, and milk deliveries to clients in the 1930s despite the economic challenges of that time. Picture Evelyn, a single mother navigating parenthood amidst the economic crisis. Similar to our clients today, she relied on public transit to seek resources for her family. When we delivered bottled milk to Evelyn’s door, it went beyond a simple act of kindness; it addressed a fundamental need for her child so she could continue to build her life from the ground up. Moments like these best represent JFCS: we help people help themselves.

Today, the Max Block Food Pantry expands to provide thousands of pounds of nutritious, non-perishable food to individuals and families. We also provide personal hygiene items, such as toothpaste and toothbrushes, sanitary items, soap, and deodorant.

Named after Max “Mickey” Block, the Max Block Food Pantry has become a critical resource for combating food insecurity in Jacksonville. Mickey is remembered as a generous and philanthropic individual who always wanted to help those in need. He dedicated his life to the community, serving on boards at the JCA and the Temple. After Mickey’s passing in 2015, the Block Family continues his legacy, honoring him by naming our food pantry after him in 2016.

Five years later, JFCS started opening satellite food pantries in public schools and community centers in Duval County. Our satellite pantries allow us to expand our reach and provide much-needed support for children and their families. Donna O’Steen, Food Programs and Volunteer Specialist, emphasizes the critical role that our food pantries play in addressing hunger.

“Inadequate access to quality food hinders families from living self-sufficient lives. Yesterday, sixty-two families came to the food pantry when our average is thirty. Food is more than sustenance; it’s an essential resource that creates a sense of normalcy for people.”

Donna oversees the volunteers at JFCS, who are truly the backbone of the Max Block Food Pantry. From delivering food to our satellite food pantries to stocking shelves and welcoming guests with a smile, their efforts are unmatched. The dedication of our volunteers allows us to serve the growing number of hungry individuals and families in our neighborhood.

Over the past few years, the demand for our services has increased exponentially. Therefore, we are excited to share that we are expanding the Max Block Food Pantry. The expansion plan includes a desire to provide more than just shelf-stable food items. The new space will have dedicated space for refrigerators and a walk-in freezer to ensure the availability of refrigerated and frozen food, as well as kosher options. The changes will also improve accessibility, creating better visibility and an authentic shopping experience for our guests. The expansion will double, if not triple, its current capacity. According to JFCS CEO Colleen Rodriguez, the changes will help us better address the diverse and growing needs of our community.

“Our food is often the only meal people have to eat. This is why we’re stepping up our game. Expanding the Max Block Food Pantry, and offering our clients a well-rounded shopping experience, will greatly benefit our clients as well as our volunteers and staff.”

As we serve populations with varying access to cooking appliances, from those who are homeless to those living in hotels, it is evident that the Max Block Food Pantry is a critical resource. This year, our annual fundraiser, Taking Jax to the Max, will primarily support our Max Block Food Pantry and Emergency Financial Assistance Program: two of our most crucial services. Through the 2024 Annual Event, we aim to help ensure sustained support for those in need of basic necessities.

As we look ahead, the Max Block Food Pantry will inevitably grow, and it will change in ways that meet not only the evolving needs of our clients but also the well-being of our entire community. Food is part of our foundation, and JFCS will continue to nourish our neighborhood for generations to come.