Can-do attitude

Kari Martell isn’t sure what 10,000 pounds of canned food looks like. But she’s hoping to find out.

The centerpiece of this year’s annual High Holy Days food drive will take place at Oakland’s Reform Temple Sinai, when organizers aim to garner the aforementioned 5 tons of canned foods in 90 minutes on Yom Kippur, Saturday, Sept. 25.

Martell, the communications director for the Alameda County Community Food Bank, notes that she hopes to gather 30,000 pounds of food between Sept. 15 and 25 from Sinai and the dozen other East Bay congregations and Jewish organizations participating in the 14th annual drive.

The tradition of a High Holy Days food drive goes back for far more than 14 years, however. It is written in Leviticus 19:10, “And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God.”

In medieval times, Jews would often give charities the money they would have spent on food during fast periods.

And the Alameda Food Bank isn’t alone. The San Francisco Food Bank and the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano counties are also working with numerous Jewish organizations to amass tens of thousands of pounds of canned foods.

The High Holy Days food drive isn’t the only partnership between local congregations and food banks. Sinai congregant Dan McCloskey has been running a Thanksgiving turkey drive with the Alameda Food Bank for the past seven years.

Led by seven East Bay congregations, last year’s turkey drive helped to feed roughly 65,000 people, according to McCloskey.

“That’s like the entire Oakland Coliseum, including Mt. Davis,” said a proud McCloskey, the honorary chairman of the High Holy Days food drive.

“The community really, really needs the support of our congregations for food. The food bank absolutely depends on the support of the congregations to provide canned foods and all the requested items. Each year, the need gets worse, especially with the economy and the cost of rent in the Bay Area. People just don’t have money for food.”

McCloskey suggests donors give surplus food or, even better, hit up a low-cost outlet store.

“You can get so much more bang for the buck. That’s what I do every year. You can get $80 or $90 worth of food for 40 bucks,” he said.

“This is an easy thing for people to do.”

Food bank directors are requesting food items such as tuna, canned fruits, rice, soup, pasta, canned vegetables, 100 percent fruit juice, crackers, powdered milk and cereal.

For more information on the High Holy Days food drives, visit the Web site of the Alameda County Community Food Bank at, or contact Raechelle Clemmons at (510) 834-3663, ext. 343; the San Francisco Food Bank at, or contact Jessica Castelli at (415) 282-1907, ext. 262; or the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano at, or contact Georgine “Gigi” Lee at (925) 676-7543, ext.208.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.