Hometown Hero: Summer Faerman

summer faerman
Summer Faerman at the Little Free Pantry outside the Salvation Army in Boca Raton. Photo by Aaron Bristol

Food for the Soul

For B’Nai Torah’s Summer Faerman, feeding the hungry during a pandemic is her latest community-centered passion

Summer Faerman could have been on a fast track to a high-powered legal career. The Miami Beach native graduated from the University of Florida at 19, triple majoring in Business, English and Religion. She was accepted into Harvard Law School. That’s about when everything changed.

“I’m the Jewish parent’s nightmare,” she says. “I’m the kid who got into an Ivy League law school, and said, ‘eh, I want to go save the world.”

Faerman took a deferment to work for a law firm but hated the rat race. “I don’t want to be worried about billable hours,” she recalls. “How am I going to work for 90 hours doing something I don’t love to do? … Giving back is my medicine. It fuels me to keep going.”

These days, Faerman finds this fuel both inside and outside her 9-to-5, as director of the Tzedakah, Learning and Chesed (TLC) Program at Boca’s B’nai Torah Congregation. Last August, under the TLC aegis, she built the first Little Free Pantry, a public food cabinet, outside the Salvation Army on Southwest Second Avenue. She would install more than a dozen more, from Coral Springs to Lake Worth Beach, by the end of 2020; by March of this year, the number ballooned to 30. The pantries are stocked eight to 12 times a day. “You’ll never see it bare,” she says.

Fighting food insecurity is one way Faerman gives back. The mother of two Boca High students volunteers for more than 15 local and national organizations, cooks for the homeless as part of Love Outreach Boca, and is a director of Kindness Matters 365, a nonprofit that aims to instill virtues of kindness and compassion to young people.

ON THE LEAD-UP TO THE LITTLE FREE PANTRY IDEA

Before the pandemic, there was an emergency pantry at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church [that fed] from 12 to 15 people to all of a sudden 60 people [during the pandemic.]

I built a sandwich program first. I quickly made 50 sandwiches. The worst that can happen is, if you don’t have canned goods, just give them a turkey sandwich and a banana and a drink, and that’s going to get them through at least a few hours. By way of social media, I put it out there, and I booked out sandwiches for six months. We had someone six days a week, making sandwiches.

ON THE GENESIS OF LITTLE FREE PANTRY

During this pandemic, for somebody who’s on the front line all the time, and then being told, ‘stay in the house,’ I did not like that. I went on a walk with a girlfriend to these Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood. I filled a backpack up with books, and when we got to the last one, I said to my friend, I need one of these for food.

ON SOLICITING CONTRIBUTIONS FOR THE PANTRIES

We created an Amazon Wish List. Somebody sent a 94-cent package of tuna fish with the most beautiful note ever. It’s the most valuable tin of tuna fish; I wanted to frame it, because she took the time, and it mattered to her.

ON HER PHILOSOPHY OF GIVING

You can’t move forward unless you give back. I’m lucky to always have had a job where I can give back, and that I like. I always tell everyone, I don’t have a job; I have a purpose. I was put on Earth to do this.

This story is from the May/June 2021 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.