Above: Ghetto residents wait in line at soup kitchen

The Jewish Councils established various communal institutions to address the problems of public health, education, and welfare. Securing adequate food was the most pressing problem.

The ghetto administration had to negotiate with the local Nazi authorities for food rations. There was never enough. The daily food ration in Warsaw amounted to 220 calories- a mere 15% of the normal daily requirement. Severe shortages led to establishment of soup kitchens to feed the poorest and the most vulnerable in the ghetto, especially children and families without a head of the household.

A few typical statistics tell us about the increase in poverty: In October 1939, the department of public welfare in the Lodz ghetto managed two soup kitchens and distributed 500 meals a day. By September 1940, the number of daily meals distributed by the Lodz communal kitchens had swelled to 18,060. Hunger and poverty remained a serious problem in every ghetto.