Looking Back on One Year of Change in MOM's Food Pantry
by Shannon Ash, Program Director
This week marks one year since our operations as we knew them came to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been an entire year of quick changes, planning, more changes, and so many unknowns. Here's a look back at the past year of changes in the Food Pantry. (Note: Although this article focuses on the food pantry, our Stable Housing program also underwent significant changes to meet the needs of the community this year.)
When COVID-19 became more rampant in the US at the beginning of 2020, MOM staff started having conversations about what that might mean for our operations. The last week of February 2020, we purchased large quantities of hand soap to give out in the food pantry. The first two weeks of March included a lot of communication about food purchasing, volunteer roles, modifying client programs and services, fielding questions, asking our own questions, watching the news, and coming to the realization that in order to keep everyone as safe as possible, we needed to close our in-person operations.
On March 16, 2020, we hosted the last guests in the pantry. We rolled out the first version of our no-contact food distribution on March 17, which included handing out 30-pound boxes of non-perishable food items packed by volunteers. A week later, Second Harvest Food Bank started supplying us with 25-pound boxes of non-perishable foods to distribute. For a little over a month, we distributed these to food pantry guests, along with some supplemental foods from our cooler and freezer, and prepared meals from Epic. In mid-May, Second Harvest started packing cooler, produce, and dry goods boxes. At that time, we implemented our menu system, allowing guests to choose the items they wanted. We also expanded the number of additional items we were offering, including personal essential items.
As we entered the late summer months, we needed to figure out a safe way to distribute the bounty of produce we received regularly from home gardeners, partner agencies, and the Madison Area Food Pantry Gardens. We started a farmers market in the MOM parking lot, allowing guests to select as much produce as they could use. This method was very successful and we heard so much positive feedback from our guests about the variety that was being offered.
The final change to our food distribution system came this past January. On January 2, 2021, we started our 100% choice menu system. We entered into partnerships with Certco to purchase white and wheat bread, and Heartland Produce Co. to purchase a variety of fresh produce options every week. We also added other dry goods, giving our guests a very robust menu to choose from every week.
In the past year, we have served:
1,295 guests that are not registered clients of MOM
The MOM food distribution system has become one of the most unique emergency food structures in Dane County. By offering a 100% choice menu and allowing our guests to come to the food pantry as often as they need, we believe we are meeting the needs of the people we serve while providing them with a dignified experience.
We are always thankful to those who support our work. We are especially grateful to those who came forward this past year, in a year of such uncertainty, fear, and change. It's this unwavering support that allowed us to adapt our operations to best serve neighbors in the community.
Please correct the validation errors above.