NEW YORK – There are an estimated half-a-million Jews living in poverty or near-poverty in New York City.

Beginning on April 1, 50,000 Jewish families are to have access to nearly 1 million kilograms of kosher-for-Passover food, to be allotted to 90 distribution points and centers of Jewish life around New York.

Families are to be provided with $400,000 in food cards to provide for other holiday needs.

The effort is part of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty’s year-round Kosher Food Network program that provides access to food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency food vouchers, prepared meals,and food cards that can be used at local grocery stores.

The Met Council distributes food 35 times every month for families and people in need.

A representative for the Met Council told The Jerusalem Post that need increases significantly around Passover and the High Holy Days every year.

This year the council added extra distributions around Purim as well.

In a press statement, it said “we understand the unique challenges of affording kosher food and the importance of food for rituals,” adding that trying to provide a meal that is both nutritious and traditionally kosher is 30 percent more expensive than a non-kosher meal.

“For most of us, Passover is a time for festive family Seders,” said David Frankel, CEO and executive director of the Met Council in a statement.

“But for too many of New York’s Jewish needy, the festival of our freedom is, ironically, just the opposite – yet another painful reminder of the oppression of poverty,” he said. “The 2.1 million pounds of food we distribute will allow our clients to observe Passover with a traditional and nutritious meal that otherwise would have been price prohibitive.”

These Passover food packages are part of Met Council’s year round Kosher Food Network, supplementing food to low-income households throughout New York, which the Met Council says allows their clients to meet other daily needs, such as rent, clothing and medications.

The distribution for Passover begins April 1 and runs through April 10.

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