FOOD BANK: Program Feeds Hungry, Restores Dignity
STOUGHTON (WIS.) CHURCH wanted to feed the hungry and maintain the dignity of those in need when it established the "Client Choice" food pantry.
The effort started in the back of a Sunday school room where canned and dry goods were stored. Food donated by church members or purchased with donated funds was distributed to the community.
Residents could get up to two bags of groceries every 30 days on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Many would show up at the back door of the church, get their food, and leave.
"Sometimes they didn't even want to look me in the eye. I tried to show respect, but I knew something was missing," says Lori Olsen, administrative assitant at Stoughton.
So the mission committee, which staffs the food bank, shifted gears and "Client Choice" was started. Olsen says the ministry wanted to give people the dignity of selecting the foods they liked and the items they needed.
When clients learned they could select what they needed instead of getting prepackaged goods, the atmosphere around the pantry changed. Rather than just showing up at the church back door, clients and volunteers got to know and interact with one another.
The pantry also expanded its food choices and asked the congregation to bring a particular item weekly to stock the pantry: soup Sunday, soap Sunday, toothbrush Sunday, meal-in-a-can Sunday, juice Sunday, cereal Sunday; and naturally in Wisconsin, cheese Sunday.
Allowing participants to make selections instead of giving away prepackaged items requires more organization, planning, connecting with other food banks, writing applications for grants, requesting donations and recruiting volunteers.
The pantry also receives congregational support—children's Sunday school classes, Women in Mission and youth groups pitch in to support the Client Choice food pantry.