OMAHA (KPTM) - It's a new trend sweeping Omaha's food pantries. Letting the guests choose their own food. When food donations are down, guest choice pantries are helping eliminate food waste.
Outreach Coordinator, Meggan Lloyd said, "we used to order macaroni and cheese, like 400 mac and cheese's each week when we were giving out a pre-made bag of groceries because that was one of our items you know macaroni and cheese and after we switched to this system, I didn't order mac and cheese for like three months."
Kountze Memorial Lutheran church's food pantry used to have hundreds of bags, each with the same amount of food. Food Pantry Task Force member, Hal France said, "they didn't have that much of a choice, this lets them pick the things that are really helpful to them."
But now the guests get to go through and pick the items they want. "It is a privilege for us to serve them and for them to come to us, it is great, it is fabulous," Lloyd said.
It's a move that the Food Bank of the Heartland is asking all Omaha food pantries to try. Brian Barks of the Food Bank of the Heartland says, "choice pantry is not a free for all, where people get to go in and chose as much as they want and get whatever they want."
The food bank says these guest choice pantries help for two main reasons. It eliminates food waste. For example, someone with a peanut allergy won't use peanut butter. A guest choice pantry allows them to take a different food item instead. The food bank is then able to save the food in the warehouse for when they need it most. "When we go into the grocery store we don't have the grocery's prepare the sack of groceries for us, we get to go in and choose what we like," Barks said.
Second, the food bank says it gives the guests a little bit of respect. Barks said, "They show up being able to do what they want and what they need, gives the person a little bit of dignity." "They deserve that, respect, it is more respectful," France said.
The church pantry feels this helps the guests feel more welcomed. Which is part of its mission. Lloyd says, "I have guests that come up to me and just say thank you." "People who do reach out for help in many cases have to swallow a lot of pride," Barks said.
About ten percent of food pantries in Omaha have made the switch to Guest Choice. The Food Bank tells Fox 42 News they would like the number to grow.
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