Eliminate the Latter and Amplify the Former |Sammy Hobgood

The progress that we have made in the pantry, our clients will continue. Our progress will only be amplified by our clients, because now they have the opportunity to do so.

Client-choice is the term in the nonprofit field that refers to a food pantry operating in a way where clients are given the option to choose the food they desire to have. This is a dynamic shift in operation, one we have already undertaken to a certain extent, and will be expanding in the near future.

While relatively new to the position of Pantry Manager, I have already witnessed the need for such a system of operation. Due to space and refrigeration limitations, our clients choose about 30% of their food now, whereas the other 70% is prepackaged for them. The volunteers and I shop for them before passing off their shopping cart to let them finish the rest.

Every time I pack a shopping cart, or one of our volunteers does, we think about:
• How many people am I shopping for?
• What food do I have to give them?
• Will they like what I pick out for them?

Sometimes, clients do not wish to have certain foods and hand it back upon seeing it in their cart. I appreciate them doing as such so that we may have it available for someone else instead of it going home, only not to be used out of dislike.

With a client-choice based model, the dislike problem is alleviated. The client can independently choose what they want, giving them the opportunity to choose what foods are best for their household.

With that said, there is a responsibility on our shoulders as an organization and as a community to supply our clients with a diverse range of food so that they may then freely choose, rather than “choosing” from what is only available to them.

Our job as an organization, and as a community, is to provide our pantry with as much diverse product as possible, thereby creating an environment where freedom of choice is able to be practiced.

Our work has included supplying and packing, but now we eliminate the latter and amplify the former.

We must source well so that our clients can shop well. Clients will choose food for their own household, doing a better job than we ever could have done.

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Want to give clients more options?
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The opinions expressed by staff, volunteers, donors, partner agencies, and all others and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Urban Ministries of Wake County.