JFS { SOVA Celebrates Thirty Years

It was February 1983 and the shaky economy and cuts in government social programs had left an increasing number of people struggling to get enough to eat.   Restaurant owners Hy and Zucky Altman, who for years had given food to the homeless and hungry from the backdoor of their deli, saw that much more was needed.  They approached the director of the Bay Cities J.C.C., Jean Kaplow, and community activist Toni Reinis about establishing a kosher food pantry.

By July they had done just that.  The first SOVA site opened in donated space that had previously been a local bar.  There were no clients the first day but gradually the word spread.  The need turned out to be far greater and broader than just a few local Jewish seniors.  From the very beginning, their clients reflected the diversity of Los Angeles.  SOVA relied on the local synagogues and Hy’s business associates to keep their shelves stocked.  They relied on committed volunteers to do everything else – transporting food, serving clients, filling grocery bags.  

By 1986, SOVA was operating on a regular schedule from two storefront locations – Santa Monica and the Fairfax area.  The number of clients served grew year by year and the range of services expanded.  In 1994 a third site opened to serve Valley clients.  Each was modest and crowded and keeping enough food in stock was always a challenge.  Toyota donated a new truck that greatly improved the food transportation challenges. 

By 2001, financial issues led the Jewish Federation Council to approach JFS about adding SOVA to its broad range of services.  JFS adopted SOVA in January 2002 and immediately began to make changes to strengthen the program and improve service delivery.  The Westside location was moved to a newly renovated building at Pico/Robertson.  The Valley site was moved to a large space that could finally provide adequate warehouse storage space for the entire program.  Eventually the Beverly Blvd. pantry was moved to a custom-designed space in West Hollywood.  Vehicles were purchased and modern systems were put into place.  Clients could now access not only food on their visits but legal counsel, vocational guidance, government benefits enrollment and eventually services by on-site Social Workers.

The program grew dramatically beginning in 2007 as the “great recession” took its toll.  Within four years, the number of clients served each month surged from 4,000 to 12,000.  But, as it had for 30 years, SOVA continued to do what it does best – provide food and a full range of supportive services to those who need it most. 



SOVA Community Food & Resource Program  - Click For Locations & Hours
Main Office: 16439 Vanowen Street Van Nuys, CA 91406   818-988-7682

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