About 13% of Western Mass. residents are food insecure, a rate higher than any other food bank service area in the state.
Since 1983, the all volunteer staff at the Good Neighbors Food Pantry has been getting food to neighbors in need the same way. Each month, volunteers gather over two days, pre-bagging food to be distributed the next day to clients via a number system.
That is, of course, until the system was changed up a bit in September of 2012, says pantry coordinator Shelia Litchfield. Good Neighbors began getting bags of food that they had given to clients donated back to them “because they just couldn’t use the food we had given them,” Litchfield explained. Whether it was a dietary restriction or a food allergy, there were many reasons why giving all clients identical bags of food didn’t serve everyone in the best possible way. So the Good Neighbors pantry decided to implement a “client-choice” model of food distribution as a more efficient and open way to distribute the most-needed food to their clients.
It’s been five months since the client-choice model was adopted and it has been very well-received. “The clients are able to choose how much food they need, and pick foods that they will use,” Litchfield said. With the new model distribution now only takes one day and has created a new atmosphere at the pantry. Volunteers and clients now work together to select the foods they need, lending a collaborative, friendly, community feel to food distributions.
Litchfield attributes the mood that the client choice format has brought to the food distributions to the increase in individuals and families visiting the Good Neighbors pantry. On average, the pantry sees 198 individuals, comprised of 62 families each month.
“We don’t have desserts, or very many paper goods,” says Sheila. Instead, “we try to supply healthy, nutritious food.” There is a focus on nutrition and complete meals meeting the guidelines of the USDA’s “Choose My Plate” program. The pantry also coordinates distributions during school holiday and summer breaks to accommodate children who won’t receive free school meals during those times.
The Good Neighbors pantry also supplies toys for the holidays, along with scarves and gloves each winter to clients under 18. During the summer it provides healthy recipes and tastings which are cooked and eaten right along with the families participating.
The Good Neighbors pantry is one of 300 member agencies working to fight hunger in The Food Bank’s emergency food network. If you would like to learn more you can contact The Good Neighbors Food Pantry by calling 413-337-4957, or sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. To find a Food Bank member agency in your town, click here to see a complete list.
(Photos courtesy of: Caroline Barba)Comments Off
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