In the basement of the Poplar Street building, unknown to many FPC members, there is an area almost like a small convenience store. About 15 times a month, Loaves and Fishes volunteer crews distribute food to clients…people with a referral from Loaves and Fishes who shop and pay with points, not cash.
Many distribution volunteers are FPC members, but other churches send entire crews, and some crews include friends of our church family. The role of a distribution volunteer, in addition to assisting with food selection, is to offer respect and kindness. Three years ago, after Ross and I moved uptown, I joined the First Thursday distribution team.
Two surprises have been:
how often someone says “I don’t need any more than this, so I won’t take more. Leave it for the next person!” and
how many people ask for healthy food. They have medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, hypertension) and want to avoid salt in canned vegetables, sugar in canned fruit.
The pantry receives some fresh vegetables and fruit in deliveries from the Loaves and Fishes Warehouse, but mostly we offer canned food. I started asking clients what produce they would “buy” if available, and the answers were unexpected: strawberries (shrug), blueberries (NO), cauliflower (Never ate that!)…but YES to cabbage, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, corn, potatoes, yams.
A cost-efficient way to obtain fresh produce is to become a Second Harvest Food Bank shopper. So with FPC’s support, I attended training last November at Second Harvest so I can shop in their warehouse. There are shopping rules: you must make an appointment, time limit in the warehouse is 30 minutes, you may bring up to three helpers, and you can shop once a week.
At Second Harvest, fresh produce costs $.03/lb. On a January visit, I bought 20 pounds of potatoes and a large shopping bag filled with onions. The cost was $1.11. Moreover, they were offering free orange juice, so I also brought back 16 large carafes of orange juice.
On a second trip in January, I bought 30 pounds of onions, 10 bags of carrots, 12 pounds sweet potatoes and 23 pounds of bananas—all for $2.46. When Operations Manager Jim Tyndall saw the bananas he warned of fruit flies if they stayed in the building too long. Not a problem. All the bananas “sold” within the first hour of the afternoon shift
Want to help?
Distribution shifts are Wed-Thurs-Fri 1-4 pm, and Sat 9-12. There are also Delivery crews (who receive and unpack supplies from Loaves and Fishes), one Thursday and two Tuesdays, 9:30–11 am. Contact Diane Carey for more information.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. We’ll place a plastic bin in the hallway outside the FPC kitchen for toothbrush and toothpaste donations. These items are rarely available in the Pantry and will be very appreciated. Thanks!