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School districts, synagogues partner with eateries to feed families

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Community organizations have stepped up in recent weeks to support residents hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. People dependent on meal assistance programs, such as school lunches, have especially struggled. In response, Congregation Beth Ohr, in Bellmore, has launched a voucher program to help feed local families.

“Working with the North Bellmore School District, we have distributed 85 food vouchers redeemable at Bagel Boss of Merrick,” according to a press release from CBO President Bruce Nelson. “A second round of the food voucher programs will be offered again this week.”

“The impetus for this program was the increase in demand for school lunches as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the release continued. “We also saw a need to provide meals to those families on the weekends when school was not in session.”

The district started to serve lunches to families in need back in March. “We were serving 63 meals a day, which quickly escalated to over 220 lunches a day,” said North Bellmore Schools Superintendent Marie Testa.

The district partnered with CBO after a school board member and temple congregant heard about the Bellmore Lions donating pizza from Gino’s Pizza in Merrick to the schools. According to Jacqueline Rehak, the assistant superintendent for business, CBO and Bagel Boss donated gift cards to 85 families in the past few weeks. Each gift card was redeemable for six bagels, and a half-pound each of cream cheese, butter and tuna and egg salads.

Testa called CBO’s actions “a bright light in a dark time.”

Bagel Boss has also established a similar program with the Merrick Jewish Center, providing hundreds of hot meals and coupon packages to community members in recent weeks. “We were asked to play our part and we played our part,” said a Bagel Boss representative.

Testa noted that the actions of these organizations spoke to a district motto: “We teach who we are.” “Congregation Beth Ohr and Bagel Boss have shown an outpouring of love and humanity for our neighbors,” she said. “They show who we are as a community. The families, administrations and board are all so grateful.”