Thursday, April 12, 2012

Freshplace, a new kind of food pantry

Earlier today, I joined Foodshare's partners from Chrysalis Center, the Junior League of Hartford, UConn, and the United Way for a discussion about our progress at Freshplace, a new kind of food pantry we have developed in Hartford.

What sets Freshplace apart?
  • Food is offered in a setting that looks like a grocery store and the clients are allowed to choose their own food, rather than being handed a pre-packed bag.
  • Most of the food is fresh, including meat, vegetables, fruit, bread, and eggs.
  • To get food from Freshplace, a person has to commit to work with the Freshplace case manager to create a Freshstart plan designed to move them toward self-sufficency.
Today, we heard from Maria, a client at Freshplace (where actually the clients are called "members").  Maria said that her frist reaction to Freshplace was "Wow!"  She couldn't believe the variety of food that was available to her household.  She talked about taking cooking classes, learning how to read labels and shop more effectively, using the computers to do job searches.  The team at Freshplace helped connect her to a program at Capital Community College that would help her get a certificate in medical billing.  She takes the final test next week.  I wish her much luck!

And we heard from Susan, a volunteer, whose primary role is to accompany a member as they shop.  Susan said she volunteers on the same day each week so that she gets to know the members.  She said that as they shop through the pantry together, they often discuss food and how to prepare it and that more often she is the student!  Susan spoke powerfully about the relationships she has built with the members, talking with them, supporting them in their challenges, weeping with them in their trials.

It's these kind of caring, compassionate, one-on-one exchanges between people that, I believe, can help someone take the next step to move out of poverty toward self-sufficiency.

Thank you to everyone who has made this program work!

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