Of the 300 children at the Jewish Community Center's Summer Camp, fewer than one-quarter are Jewish, yet they all know the meaning of the Hebrew word "mitzvah." To do a kind deed is a mitzvah, and during the eight weeks of camp, the children have been bringing food for the needy.
Under the direction of Eve Bier, camp director, gifts of canned food have been given on Fridays to the Salvation Army and to the St. Vincent De Paul soup kitchen. The Crossroads Urban Center Food Bank and the Salt Lake Food Bank have also been recipients of the children's good deeds this summer.During Friday Shabbat luncheons, the children were challenged to dedicate the entire year to doing mitzvahs. As the children prepared to eat their lunches during breaks from swimming, cultural programs and field trips, they placed their contributions to the hungry in baskets.
Other mitzvahs chosen throughout the summer include making new friends, sharing, and cleaning up litter at the neighborhood camp. And at home the children are respecting their parents, listening to them and being kind to brothers and sisters.
But perhaps the most significant mitzvah has been the food project.
"Times are lean now because all the drives are during the winter," said the manager of the Salt Lake Food Bank, who would have preferred not to give any name but did give her first name, Persis. The Salt Lake Food Bank serves the 14 pantries in the area and helps the Rescue Mission, Salvation Army and St. Vincent De Paul feeding stations when possible.
"People are spending on vacations and families during the summer, and you just can't push a community," she said. "We've given out almost a million pounds of food, but it gets really lean in the summer. What we'd especially like is fresh fruit and vegetables. It's just superhooty to get that kind of stuff because some of the elderly shut-ins and handicapped we take food to can make a whole meal out of potatoes and some peas," Persis said.
One LDS Church ward in Bountiful has set aside a one-third acre garden plot entirely for the Salt Lake Food Bank. Because last year the food bank did not receive much fresh produce, Persis hopes those with overflowing gardens will remember the homeless and hungry. "Everybody needs food regardless of race or religion, and we certainly could use a little of that fresh food being grown locally.
But even the food bank hasn't solved the problem most home gardeners experience with planting one particular crop: "We have squash coming out our ears!" Persis said. But they don't look a gift horse in the mouth - even zucchini is gladly accepted at the Salt Lake Food Bank.
Working with the Community Services Council, the Salt Lake Food Bank is directed by Dr. Lowell Bennion. The offices are at 212 W. 13th South, and the phone number is 486-2136.