The "MyChoice" Community Pantry is still in the process of being created, and we expect that it will only be fully operational in the first quarter of 2021. The "MyChoice" community pantry is a membership driven club.
The idea to create a community pantry came from one of the beneficiaries that we have been assisting in the “Food for Thought" program.
A grandmother that requested help with food and toiletries for her 28-year-old granddaughter that found herself unemployed for an extended period approached us to get a food basket. But what surprised us was that at the same time she gave us a donation of 10€, so that we could top up some of the items we were donating to her granddaughter, so that others could also benefit.
This got us thinking.
After that, we chatted to some of our beneficiaries that we had assisted about the thought of creating a food club with small contributions weekly or monthly from them. The idea was well received. And as one of them told us:
“ … I feel ashamed having to ask for food, but if I’m part of the club - I’m not begging for food – I am not asking for charity” "… it’s a club of which I am a member."
And the EG Community Food Pantry concept was born. There’s still much work ahead to get it up and running, but with the assistance of you and many others in the community we are sure we will reach our objective.
The current scenario
Food insecurity does not just stem from unemployment – people facing food poverty may be retired, have low-incomes, lack of reliable work, may be affected by illness, disability or a myriad of other circumstances.
Food assistance programs, pantries, food banks, soup kitchens, etc. are being run in many countries. But they all to some extent create some sort of food dependency, which affects the recipient’s mental well being and self-esteem in the short and long-term.
In addition there’s the risk that it deepens the sense of shame for having to be dependent on food handouts.
What we at EG have been looking for, was a model that enables beneficiaries of a food support program to feel they do not need to feel ashamed of asking for food while at the same time enabling them to maintain their dignity.
EG’s pilot project “Food for Thought" assisted us in identifying various issues. Here's some examples of the issues facing our community:
- Many families currently are unable to afford good food and are having to go to bed hungry.
- There’s a definite need to provide a sustainable approach to reducing food poverty.
- Building on our own experience, and the many food poverty programs that are currently running in various parts of the world, the “Pantry” model is an effective way to make sure that people’s budgets go further. It addresses the “Food Poverty” status that sees families limited to buying food from expensive shops, or to even go without food.
- There’s a need for people to be able to have access to food that is affordable and more nutritious.
- Pantries benefits can go beyond just filling people’s cupboards, they provide a breathing space for struggling families by offering fresh food to households that would otherwise be limited to cheap, less healthy food.
- It assists in tackling social isolation.
- Reduces stigma and ensures dignity and choice.
Because we know that no two families or individuals have the same needs or preferences, the MyChoice program offers several potential benefits to both the client and to the pantry.
In this system, the “MyChoice” clients choose the foods they want, similar to shopping at a food supermarket/grocery store.
The basic premise beyond our food pantry model, is that it allows people seeking food assistance to choose for themselves what products they receive rather than just getting pre-packaged bags with items they may not use.
The MyChoice Pantry provides income-eligible community members with access to healthy and nutritious foods. People “shop” through their food selection process much like they would in a grocery store, rather than receiving pre-packaged bags.
While the specific selection of food will vary from month to month, items from each nutritional food group (dairy, protein, grains, fruits, vegetables) are always represented. The choice system helps families to go home with the foods that they need and like while leaving behind items that they will not use, so none goes to waste.
Being Member-choice driven, benefits members by:
- Enabling selection of desired products.
- Encouraging personal dignity and self-esteem, while building trust and satisfaction.
- Accommodating their needs (for example, allowing for a certain type of diet or limited cooking equipment).
- Promoting critical thinking, budgeting and nutrition knowledge.
- Reducing food waste.
Member-choice benefits the "MyChoice" pantry by:
- Reduces cost and waste – pantry funds are used only for foods that will be eaten, not thrown away.
- Reduces inventory - pantries do not need to supply one of every item to each client.
- Reduces volunteer labour – volunteer resources may be directed toward engaging clients.
- Improves inventory management – staff learn what items are most popular with their clients and are thus able to tailor food procurement
- Reducing waste and monetary losses - members choose products they want and will use.
- Saves time - Instead of spending time just bagging food items, that time can now be used to engage and aid clients.
This model is designed to help individuals provide a balanced diet for themselves and their families. Guided member-choice focus, also increases the interaction between food pantry volunteers, staff and club members, and fosters the building of relationships.
Its a Win-Win for all!
The "MyChoice" community pantry infrastructure will also be used to run the "Food for Thought" program.