The Food Bank’s capacity grant fulfills agency’s need for “community dignity”

Rebecca Roman, Revival Time Evangelistic Food Pantry

Rebecca Roman, director of Revival Time Evangelistic Center Food Pantry in Springfield, laughs when she recalls applying for an agency capacity grant from The Food Bank in 2017. She thought the application process would be too difficult for a small pantry that opens its doors just one Saturday morning per month. But Alan Dallmann*, The Food Bank’s agency relations coordinator at the time, was persistent. He helped to nudge Roman beyond her skepticism and encouraged her to act.

Revival Time is a member agency of The Food Bank, which means that they receive most of their food from our warehouse. As with all member agencies we partner with, we take a holistic approach to supporting their needs. We offer modest capacity grants allowing agencies to purchase facility upgrades like office equipment and cold-storage appliances and to take care of general building maintenance. Our agency relations team offers training workshops (on topics such as client intake procedures and volunteer management) and provides day-to-day advice and technical support. They also help ensure that our member agencies meet state and federal requirements for operation. This all-encompassing partnership is crucial for pantries like Revival Time that operate on a bare-bones budget and limited staff.

“We have such a support system behind us with The Food Bank,” explains Roman. “We’re never alone.”

Alan Dallmann, The Food Bank of Western Mass.

Located in Springfield’s Maple Hill neighborhood, Revival Time operates out of a worn-down unassuming house adjacent to the red brick church that shares its name. The church established the pantry in 2014 to serve a low-income community wrestling with the pervasiveness of food insecurity and a lack of affordable housing. Many who visit live in the neighborhood, but a growing number of clients come in from farther-flung parts of the city as word of this valuable source of free food spreads.

“We’re getting an eclectic group of people … who are displaced,” says Roman. “There’s some homeless. There’s some trying hard to make ends meet and they won’t come together.”

With an expanding client base, Roman worried that her pantry wasn’t properly addressing the needs of her clients. They had limited space to store food which posed a serious problem. Additionally, the building needed critical repairs and upgrades. It lacked a proper seating area for clients, particularly those who are elderly or disabled. A light fixture in the main room swung dangerously from the ceiling by exposed wiring, and the bathroom had plumbing issues.

These necessary repairs proved too costly for the pantry’s limited budget, so Alan Dallmann’s suggestion to apply for funding came at an opportune time. After going through the application process, the pantry was awarded a capacity grant for $3,611.00.

“[It] was very easy to apply for,” Roman recalls. “I was shocked to be honest. … but Alan was key in helping me, in walking me through it.”

Industrial-grade freezer purchased w/ capacity grant

“Once Rebecca was able to articulate her desire to serve more vegetables and protein to her clients,” Dallmann explains, “it became clear that her capacity to store and distribute perishable items was a priority.”

With funding in hand, Revival Time was able to purchase an industrial-grade freezer, a refrigerator, and shelving units, allowing them to increase their storage capacity. They’ve completed renovations to their facility, including repairing and painting walls, replacing the broken light fixture, repairing the bathroom, and purchasing office equipment.

When asked about what else moved her to apply for a capacity grant, Roman pauses, then quietly responds.

“The community’s dignity is very important to me. Whatever we did to make the space look better, it’s all combined to say to the client, ‘you are more important to me than anything.’ That’s just me. I love people.”

* Alan Dallmann now serves as Hunger Solutions Innovator at The Food Bank and works with the Coalition to End Hunger.