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Say ‘Yes’ to Choice

Posted by Food Acquisition on October 28th, 2010

One of the aspects of my job that I love most is visiting agency partners who are doing an exceptional job of distributing food to those in our community. A great example is Berachah Church Food Pantry, located in Cheltenham, Montgomery County. I visited during their distribution last Thursday and it was the first time that I got to see the pantry open and in action.

Berachah, a well-organized volunteer run agency, emphasizes client satisfaction. The pantry is welcoming with a bright seating area where clients can wait their turn to do their shopping. There’s a pile of toys in the corner for any little ones who come along. Flyers are posted around the room promoting other social services and there’s even a “coupon” area where clients can pick up coupons for their grocery shopping. This is pretty different from a typical food pantry where clients often stand in line for hours just to receive a pre-packed bag of dry goods.

When there’s room in the pantry, clients pick up a basket and get to choose from a wide variety of foods, including cereal, meat, soup, juice, and bread, as well as other canned goods.  Each basket gets weighed and a volunteer packs up the food in the client’s bags.

Jeannette Hood runs the food pantry and greets each of the clients as she notes the weight of the food they picked today on her sign-in sheet. The whole atmosphere is positive and upbeat.

Letting clients choose the food that they receive at a food cupboard may sound unusual. Historically, people only went to food cupboards sparingly. Now, many food cupboards serve their clients with supplemental food on a regular, ongoing basis. Many food cupboards have found that when they offer their clients choice, there is less waste because people are not getting a pre-packed bag with items that they may not like or can’t eat due to allergies or dietary restrictions. In addition, preserving an individual’s dignity when it comes to asking for help is perhaps the most important benefit and offering choice helps to accomplish this. We’re encouraging as many of our partner agencies as possible to adopt the choice model.

Do you think that offering client choice is a good way to distribute food to those in need?

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