At Sunnyvale Community Services, we work with our clients to help them achieve many of their personal goals: stable housing, food security, and access to fundamental human services. But one of our most important goals is intangible. We want our clients to always feel that they have dignity—from the moment they walk in our door for safety-net services to the day they joyfully become self-sufficient.
One way we strive to provide dignity for our clients is by giving them tools and choices to improve their lives. To that end, we’ve recently revamped our food distributions to give clients more selection when they come to our center for food.
Our new Pantry Plus program lets clients choose two days each month to “shop” in our simulated store for their food supplies. In sharp contrast to the common food pantry model of receiving pre-packaged grocery bags, our clients get to choose from many foods and household items. Do their family members prefer white or brown rice? Would they rather have applesauce, canned pears, or canned peaches? Does someone in the household need a meatless protein?
Each client makes their food choices from a list of available items, and then one of our super SCS volunteers goes to work filling a shopping basket with food. Meanwhile, the client visits our self-shopping area to select other staples, such as toiletries, baby food, and cleaning supplies.
The result? Our clients get more of the foods they like, so they eat better. They aren’t producing food waste by throwing out items they never requested. And they have the dignity of controlling their food choices as if they were buying groceries at a supermarket.