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Food Pantry 101: Good Choice!

Like every industry, the food pantry business has its own jargon. One phrase you might hear thrown around is “choice pantry.” If you know, you know (or IYKYK!). But insider speak is no way to create a welcoming environment. Here is a little FAQ about our choice pantry.

So what the heck is a “choice pantry”? Simply put, it is a pantry where customers get to choose the food and other products they want.

Sounds logical. Don’t people always get to choose their food? Actually, no. In many cases, food aid organizations distribute prepackaged “baskets” of foods and products in a one-size-fits-all manner.

Why don’t people get to choose? There could be many reasons, but they usually come down to these issues:

  1. Limited Space: Many pantries operate out of small spaces where they do not have to pay much or any rent. This is helpful, because emergency food programs are often underfunded. On the downside, that confinement prevents those places from being “open” to the public. Fire codes and other public safety regulations mean the only way some pantries can serve people is by handing out food boxes at the door. Prior to relocating to our new building at 6608 Dublin Center Dr., Dublin Food Pantry was distributing prepackaged food boxes on a drive-through basis while operating out of Dublin Community Church.
  2. Limited Time: Pantries that use someone else’s building as an operating space have to follow that building owner’s rules. That means they operate the pantry service when the building owner says they can operate.
  3. Limited Volunteers: Food pantries are often staffed completely by volunteers with just a few paid staff people to support them. Depending upon the location of the pantry, volunteer resources may be limited by time of day, geography, demographic challenges, and other factors. Without volunteers, food pantries basically can’t operate.

What difference does it make? Quite a bit, actually….

  1. For Customers: Having a choice preserves our customers’ dignity. Pantry customers are in an economically challenging situation that has eliminated a lot of other choices. On top of all that, imagine not being able to shop for the food you want and instead getting the food that is handed to you. Customers shopping at Dublin Food Pantry and other choice pantries know they can get the foods their families enjoy.
  2. For Volunteers: Volunteers get to interact meaningfully with customers instead of handing out a box of products that may or may not be palatable or useful. These interactions help break down barriers in the community and create a welcoming environment for customers. The atmosphere at Dublin Food Pantry is bright, cheerful, and pleasant–not what you might expect when you think of a social service agency!
  3. For Donors: Choice pantries reduce food waste. While food costs for pantries are pretty minimal, there is ample evidence that the prepackaged food box model wastes substantial amounts of food, which is the last thing any of us wants to do. How do we know this? A pantry that serves the same number of customers using a choice model distributes far less food than a prepack pantry. Why? Because pantry customers, like any other grocery shopper, will only take the food that they need and know their families will eat.

So now you are an expert on the what, how, and why of a Choice Pantry. Thanks to a generous capital campaign gift from IGS Energy, we once again proudly offer a choice pantry for our customers!

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