All food pantries are different. You need to shop for a food pantry as you would for a car, a major appliance, or any other big ticket item.
THE FIRST THING to look for in a pantry is the location. Where is the nearest food pantry? Will you be comfortable shopping at a pantry in your neighborhood? There are some real pros and cons to this decision. If you shop at your neighborhood food pantry, it’s inevitable that you’ll be seen by people who know you. For some, this is going to be the worst moment of your life. For others, not so.
One nice thing about choosing a pantry near where you live or work is that you’ll save on transportation costs. Also, pantries usually take a while to visit so the less time you spend traveling to and fro, the easier the whole event will be.
THE SECOND DECISION to make is about the hours the pantry is open. It does absolutely no good to know all about the pantry nearest you if it’s open on Tuesday and you can’t get there on Tuesday. So, know right from the beginning of your search when you have time and transportation to get to a pantry.
THE THIRD DECISION to make is about the food itself. The Reservoir Food Pantry, for example, is a vegetarian pantry. So, at our pantry, you’ll be hard pressed to find meat, fish, etc. You will, however, find yogurt. We’re currently offering 9 cups of yogurt per person in the household. I’m sure that luxury won’t go on forever but, for now, life is good.
Because we’re a vegetarian pantry, we offer a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and many items are organic.
We also have a freezer and refrigerator which further expand what we can offer on pantry day.
Of course, you can’t really ask pantry volunteers questions like “Are you vegetarian?” and “How many freezers and refrigerators do you have?” However, when you finally get to the pantry for your first visit, you can certainly use your eyes to decide about these things.
A FOURTH DECISION to make about a pantry is whether you’re going to try to find one that’s open weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly. Reservoir Food Pantry opens weekly. Most pantries in our area serve a three-day supply of food. So, if you choose a pantry that’s only open one day a month, it’s for sure you’re going to need to connect up to at least two or three pantries.
For some, this is a good thing because it offers more variety in the foods you’ll find.
A FIFTH DECISION to make is whether or not you want a client choice pantry or not. Some pantries pass out bags of food. You take home what is given to you. Other pantries, like the Reservoir Food Pantry offer client choice. What this means is that you choose the foods you take home. Personally, I think the client choice pantries take more time to visit because the shoppers are actually choosing food. So, it’s a trade off. You spend more time in the pantry but you take home food you personally chose, food that you and your household members can eat.
A SIXTH DECISION involves the paperwork. Just how much paperwork do you want to fill out? You are only, really, required to sign your name for the food. However, some pantries want much more information. Some pantries want to see a lot of identification. Others never ask. One thing they can’t do though: they can’t ask to see your Social Security Card. And, they can’t ask for the number.
Frankly, if the pantry is client choice, if it’s open when you need it, if the volunteers are nice and treat you with dignity, fill out the paperwork and get the food.
A SEVENTH DECISION is all about you…and your attitude. Keep in mind as you travel down this path that you are a trailblazer. You’re moving into a part of our culture known only to those who use the service. You can be embarrassed, ashamed, depressed, angry. Or, you can realize that you are a forward thinking person who is adapting to life in the 21st century and embracing a new habits which many of us are already using.
I like the second way best. Life is easier with a coping attitude.
Pantry shoppers understand that pantry food is our tax dollars at work.
Pantry shoppers understand that money not spent for the food at the pantry store means there are a few more dollars that can be spent on other necessities like toilet paper and tooth paste.
Pantry shoppers understand that pantries offer foods which we can, in many instances no longer afford.
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Peace and food for all.