Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando sees a growing need for food assistance

Organization has been helping those in need for 45 years

WINTER PARK, Fla.Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando, 2100 Lee Road, has been giving food to those in need for 45 years.

However, the organization has never given out as much food as it has so far in 2023.

“The amount of food going out of our establishment is record-breaking for us,” JFS president Phil Flynn said. “May broke all our records. Then June broke May’s record and I’ve just closed the books on July and July broke June’s records. So we have a tremendous amount of food going out.”

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Flynn said the food insecurity in Central Florida was greatly exacerbated by the pandemic.


“Prepandemic — go back to 2019 — we were averaging 22 clients a day,” Flynn said. “We then, during the pandemic, rose to 124 (clients) per day.”

Flynn said JFS’ food pantry is now seeing about 100 people a day — which the organization believes is the new normal.

The majority of people being served by JFS are people who are working, but struggling to make ends meet.

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“I see the working poor,” Flynn said. “My facility, we do serve — if you’re homeless, and you show up, we feed you. We give you the food to go. But, the vast majority of clients — over 95% of people coming in — they’re working, right? So they’re working two, three jobs, but they can’t get to the end of the month.”

Flynn said that it takes a lot to meet the growing demand JFS is experiencing.

“We rely on a combination of tremendous amount of donor support. We are a nonprofit agency. We’re raising money all the time and through government programs and government grants,” he said.

However, Flynn added that the funds have not quite kept up with the demand for help.

“They have enough for us to just do today’s job and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow,” he said.

JFS bases its mission on the Jewish principle of “tikkun olam,” which translates to “repairing the world.”

“You show up at my front door, you’re hungry, I feed you,” Flynn said. “You need help, I help you. Our job is to save the world.”

Flynn added that there are no qualifications to receive assistance from JFS

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“You’re hungry, we feed you. It’s plain and simple. Yes, because we do take government grants, we do ask some questions. Do you live in Seminole County? Do you live in Orange County,” he said. “We take that information so we can report back to the government because they are interested in tracking.”

Flynn described his work as humbling but added that he would not be upset if his job became obsolete.

“If food insecurity went away, then you wouldn’t need the food pantries,” he said. “Just take it away. We’ll do something else.”

In the latest episode of Florida Foodie, Flynn talks about the other services offered by JFS to people in need. He also shares information on a new program aimed at helping survivors of the Holocaust.

Those interested in donating to JFS can click here or contact the organization at 407-644-7593 ext. 234.

Please follow our Florida Foodie hosts on social media. You can find Candace Campos on Twitter and Facebook. Lisa Bell is also on Facebook and Twitter and you can check out her children’s book, “Norman the Watchful Gnome.”

Florida Foodie is a podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it and the impact that has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.

About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.