Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Romence Road Food Pantry, Portage, Michigan

This is the oldest of the Loaves & Fishes food pantries; it has been in operation for 27 years.  The pantry is open a few hours a day 5 days a week, plus one evening, and is staffed by 96 volunteers.  The pantry distributes about a ton of food a week.  About 75% comes from Loaves & Fishes and the other 25% comes from local individual and church donations.  The pantry is encouraging donations of cash, because that is more flexible and can be used to purchase fresh items.
The day we visited, we helped stock shelves and subdivided a huge bag of gleaned bagels.  We also interviewed Alice Heun, Pantry Director, who told us some of the things that make this pantry special:
  • The pantry always has a good variety and choice of food and other items, due in part to the ample space to stock non-perishable items.
  • Individual churches donate special items such as jelly, pancake mix &syrup, feminine hygiene products, and diapers.  They also donate cash, which the pantry uses to purchase fresh items.
  • Each client shops with a laminated shopping list designed by a nutritionist for the size of family they're feeding. Categories on the shopping list correspond to color-coded shelves (i.e., green for fruits and vegetables, red for protein, yellow for grains and pasta, and blue for personal items).  This helps ensure that each client receives a fair share and a balanced selection of nutritious food.  Here's an example:
  • Children age 5 and under can choose a book to take home each month.  The books come from NY Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter's foundation, called Turn 2.  The goal of the Turn 2 Foundation is "To create and support signature programs and activities that motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and TURN2 healthy lifestyles."
  • The volunteers are always loving, cheerful, and respectful.  "Each client who comes through that door is Christ," she said.

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