Model Programs

NEW - wraparound UConn Dietetics Summer Food 2010

Going Beyond the Food

Every year, billions of dollars of government aid for struggling families goes untapped. It’s true. Billions of dollars are waiting to be given out, but many families never accept the offer. Many people simply aren’t aware of the programs available to help them. Or they wrongly assume they don’t qualify so they never explore their options. Or they might think they qualify for assistance—but they don’t know where to turn for help. This cycle creates havoc for families by lessening the likelihood that they will remain self-sufficient and increasing their dependence on local food programs. By integrating wrap-around services within traditional food pantries we can begin to address these all too common problems, and bring families one step closer to self-sufficiency.

Wrap-around services move a typical food pantry beyond its role as a traditional emergency food provider, offering clients an array of services, all under one roof, that connect them with government, state and local assistance programs. They help eligible clients find, apply for and get the help they are qualified to receive. Freshplace, a collaborative project of the Chrysalis Center, Foodshare and The Junior League of Hartford, is one such example. Whereas a typical food pantry focuses primarily on providing food for a few days, Freshplace goes beyond the norm employing a full-time case manager who offers comprehensive intake and referral services. By increasing access to SNAP benefits, health and crisis intervention programs, fuel assistance, and educational services, this unique program can serve as a community hub and resource for those in need.

Each pantry decides independently how to integrate wrap-around services. A great way to get started is by introducing the client choice model, which serves to empower clients – an important first step in moving them away from emergency food assistance. Read More +

Most of us take for granted the choices we can make on our trips to the supermarket. Yet, those who seek help from their local food pantry are often surprised at how little say they have in the kinds of food they will be bringing home to their families. When most pantries first began operating in the early 1980’s there was a real lack of food, so the focus was on limiting the amount of food distributed. Consequently, pantries would pack bags of groceries for clients with a pre-determined list of items.

For the majority of pantry programs, this system of distribution is still used today, despite the fact that food is no longer scarce. More often than not, this bag does not consider the size of each family and will not contain enough food for the month. Pantries struggle to find enough volunteers or specific product to fill the bags. To make matters worse, Foodshare is forced to throw away food every single day - fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meats, bread and fruit juices – simply because many food pantries only want certain types and sizes of product.

The emerging concept of “client choice” seems to address all of these concerns, and is fast becoming the norm. Offering clients the option to choose their own food ensures each household is receiving the food it needs. It’s a system that puts faith in the client. By allowing clients to take control of this one piece in their otherwise chaotic lives, clients feel respected, dignified, and empowered.

The Plainville pantry is one Foodshare partner that has always enabled their clients to choose the foods they want. “We let them shop as if they’re at a supermarket,” said Susie Woerz, director of the Plainville Community Food Pantry. “By giving clients a choice, you’re giving them back a little self-esteem.” Many more are slowly transitioning to this new model, as they realize how it simplifies the process for them as well. Volunteers can just stock up on whatever Foodshare has available that week, without the worry of getting all the “right” items. Pantries find they have more time to work with clients on issues that go beyond food, transitioning to the wrap-around model.

The results of a client choice pantry model are astonishing, as the people in Plainville well know. “I’ve seen a lot of people really down and out pick themselves up,” said Woerz. “And that’s a nice reward.”

For more information on providing wrap-around services or client choice, contact George Lombardo at 860-286-9999 x143.