About the Ko-Op
When was Helping Hands Food Ko-Op founded?
Helping Hands Food Ko-Op (dba Miami Kosher Ko-Op) was started in Elul 5769/September 2009 by a dedicated team of individuals connected to Talmudic University. The Ko-Op was established with the express intention of assisting hard-working families by providing kosher food at significantly reduced cost.
What is the Vision of Helping Hands Food Ko-Op?
Helping Hands Food Ko-Op believes that if you allow a person to pay for his food he is empowered to get back on his feet. Aside from giving out $200,000 of food free of charge to those with the greatest need, we invest in a model that allows people to pay just the cost of their food. Instead of getting a handout of specific food items that may not be what customers like or need, they are able to choose healthy, nutritious fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish, meat, and dairy products from our ever expanding list of products. Everyone wins. Vendors feel good that they are supporting a worthy cause and are helping to feed hungry people by giving us rock bottom prices. Donors love that the model is sustainable and can expand to help many more people with minimal additional investment. Recipients love feeling like customers not “cases”. We love seeing the smiles on people’s faces and know that we are making a difference.
What Need is filled by Helping Hands Food Ko-Op?
Kosher food is expensive; healthy, kosher food even more so. Those who struggle to put food on the table often have to sacrifice quality and nutritional foods to feed their families affordably. Those struggling to provide for their families often struggle with the stigma of needing to take a handout.
Helping Hands aims to allow families to maintain their dignity, pay their own way, and still have an opportunity to eat healthy, kosher food.
How Does Helping Hands Food Ko-Op Fill This Need?
We operate our program as an online grocery store. We sell most of the foods that a family needs at rock bottom prices by not charging them overhead costs. By keeping down costs many more families are able to afford all or most of their food. We also receive many donated items and give them out to customers free of charge, as a bonus. When families need additional help we cover part, or even all, of their monthly food bill on a case by case basis. Sometimes, in extreme situations, we raise additional funds for those struggling to pay their utilities or housing expenses.
Our weekly program is a big help for many families. Our Passover program is a lifesaver for over 400 South Florida families. Passover food is very expensive. Families also need a very large amount of food for all eight days of the holiday. This is exacerbated by the fact that many families get together and the pressure of hosting and feeding many people can break a family already on the edge. We are able to truck in Passover food in bulk directly from the manufacturers and save families over 50% of what their food costs would otherwise be at the grocery store, which can add up to several hundred dollars of savings per family.
However, despite the low prices, most of our customers still need help paying for their Passover food bill. They receive an average of $200 per family as an extra discount. And over one hundred families can’t pay for their Passover food at all. They receive what they need free of charge.
What is Unique about Helping Hands Food Ko-Op?
We do not just give out food. We invested in a model and infrastructure that allows us to sell food very efficiently. We purchase food wholesale and share a facility with Talmudic University so our occupancy costs are minimal and we keep our technology expenses low by maintaining a simple but efficient website. Aside from the $200,000 worth of free food we give out each year, we also save the South Florida Jewish Community another $800,000 in food costs our customers can’t afford. Other charities would be asked to step in and close this gap. But by investing only $350,000 annually we are able to provide a multiplier effect of almost 3:1.
What Are the Ko-Op’s Plans For The Future?
We would like to integrate our program with other communities in South Florida, but we need the support and commitment of these communities to provide a minimum customer base to make this possible. We would also like to deliver to elderly and disabled customers within parts of Miami Beach. To accomplish these goals we will need a truck, a forklift, and an expected increase of $60,000 in annual operating costs.
We hope to establish similar programs in larger cities around the country such as in Baltimore, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. To do so, we need partners in each city. This national scope will provide us with significant leverage in supply as well as in fundraising.