Last month, the GraceWorks Ministries Food Pantry in Franklin changed something they’d been doing a certain way for a long time.
Instead of food-insecure families getting a pre-loaded cart of food when they visit, they are now able to “shop” for their own food as they would at a local grocery.
“We want our families to have more choices in their lives,” said GraceWorks West senior manager Kristin Ertel, “This allows them to choose their own groceries which helps them have more dignity and respect.”
Though this model has been in place in Fairview for two years, a lack of space at the Franklin pantry required pantry volunteers to pre-load food carts.
“We’ve been wanting to move to a shopping-style since we saw how successful it was in Fairview,” said Franklin Food Pantry Manager Phil Rutledge. “We were able to store more food in our warehouse which allowed us to open some space and make the change.”
A team of volunteers from Publix came in to help arrange the shelves and food items to mimic more of a grocery-like environment.
In the month since the switch, all who have shopped have been happy with the change, Rutledge said.
“Before, families received whatever was in the cart regardless of food allergies or the likes and dislikes of their family for the kind of foods we put in it,” he said. “Allowing families to choose what they want and need will not only make them happier but will mean less goes wasted.”
Shoppers receive a grocery list when they visit the pantry with the types of food available and the amount they may take. Most spend around 20 minutes collecting their items.
Since most who receive food from GraceWorks understand the pressures of being food-insecure, some take less than what is allowed on the grocery list.
“We’ve had people go to checkout with less than what they can have,” said Rutledge. “When the volunteer tells them they can have more of a particular item, they’ll say they have enough and others may need it more. It’s touching when someone in need is concerned about the needs of others.”
Combined, the GraceWorks Food Pantries distributed a total of 5,452 food carts valued at over $1.2 million in 2016. An average of 22 food-insecure families receive food every day at the two locations.
GraceWorks provides bins and pick-up for anyone who wants to hold a food drive. To find out more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.