Creating a personal choice in food assistance.

August 6, 2009 § 2 Comments

Greg Plotkin, guest blogger on, posted a great piece this morning, “A New Approach to the Food Bank Model.” He writes:

“Visiting the local food [pantry] has always been viewed as somewhat of an impersonal experience chalk [sic] full of long lines, barren walls and sunken faces. You show up, wait your turn and then, if you’re lucky, receive a few grocery bags full of post-expiration goods.

It is this routine that sometimes causes people to avoid taking advantage of a food [pantry’s] services, even if they desperately need them.”

East Austin Service Center

He also shares how food pantries are shifting from an “institutional” experience to a “super market style” to help create a more enjoyable experience for those needing food assistance. We agree. Glenda Shayne, CAFB’s VP of Community  Programs, shares the positive effects of a “client choice” food pantry that CAFB runs in east Austin.

“At the Capital Area Food Bank’s East Austin Service Center, each guest is greeted and escorted through rows and shelves of food. They can choose three cans of vegetables, and they have a choice from various meats and other high-protein foods, too. We see the success of this pantry in their faces. The “client choice” model also reduces waste associated with pre-bagging and, most importantly, promotes the dignity and respect of each guest who walks through the door.”

The East Austin Service Center serves more than 650 families each month. Click here to volunteer.

Do you know of a new approach to food banking? Share with us in the comments section below.


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§ 2 Responses to Creating a personal choice in food assistance.

  • Client choice is a great idea, that is, if a pantry is big enough to have the aisles for clients to be escorted down. We are a small pantry here so this model won’t work for us. However, having been a client myself in the past at area pantries, I know the impersonal feeling you mention. Sometimes it is obvious the food was prebagged, ready to go when a client arrived. I was grateful and most of what I got I could use. What I couldn’t use, I took to moma. I wanted our clients here at Bread of Life Food Pantry to have as personal a touch as possible. Groceries aren’t bagged until a client comes in and is assessed. We fill each order according to family size. We ask about the number of children so that they are sure to get items just for them. Each family gets corn, green beans and third veggie if available. Every family gets canned meat, 1 or 2 items depending on stock. Each family gets canned fruit, rice and beans, if we have the latter two. I also have an area set aside for households of 1 or 2. There are items out there sized just for these households, though they may get regular sized canned veggies and fruit. I set them aside as they tend to get lost, overlooked, when with ‘regular’ food items. Fortunately, we have been blessed with low or no sugar items. I’ll ask about diabetes so that, if need be, the client can have these items. I even make a notation on their applications if they are diabetic or have high blood pressure. Low or no salt items, however, aren’t as plentiful as the low or no sugar. My workers and I strive to make sure each order is individualized, handled with a personal touch. This is the way it should be. If they know they are getting a grocery order filled just for them, those sunken faces can rise and shine.

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