The Dignity of Choice
When I first began working at Philabundance in August, I was slightly embarrassed by my somewhat obscure food choices and how strongly they define my identity. I didn’t think it was appropriate to care so much about food as I set out to work for an organization that helps people who may not have the privilege to pick and choose the way I do. But then I met countless and self-described foodies, locavores, vegetarians, and of course, other vegans—people who choose to make food a priority in their lives.
Although not everyone has the privilege to make food choices such a priority, Philabundance strives to maintain agency, autonomy, and dignity with our clients. We all deserve the right to choose, whether we work for Philabundance or receive food from Philabundance. At the Community Food Center—where I spend most of my time—customers have the option of choosing between a variety of items. There are baskets and aisles and even two places to check out, as to best mimic a for-profit grocery store. At many hunger relief agencies, clients receive a pre-picked bag or box, denying them choice, taste and preference.
One of the most important values in the Direct Service department is equality. Just because someone may need help does not mean their needs and wants have changed, and does not mean they don’t deserve the right to pick what is most desirable to them. And this is why choice is so important, and why choice is an unwavering Philabundance value. We now know that the things that allow us to make these food choices in our lives—the things that separate “us” from “them”—are precarious. Careers, savings, stability—those can all change. But we will always have the dignity of choice.