Choice Environment

 A choice pantry recognizes neighbors as experts in their life and empowers them to select the food they need, like, and want for health or personal reasons. This alone sets the tone in your pantry – one of dignity, respect, and connection.

“After” image of a newly organized food pantry.

While we are focused on the neighbor’s experience, this choice environment benefits your organization, staff, and volunteers as well!

  • The neighbors and pantry staff/volunteers form stronger connections and relationships.
  • Easier ordering and reduced food waste as pantries learn what foods to stock based on neighbor selections.
  • Reduced time spent on prepacking food items.
  • Volunteers enjoy more time with others instead of alone which improves morale.

What are pantry coordinators saying about creating a choice pantry?

We thought we would be back to pre-packing boxes in six months. We are never going back. Neighbors take what they want and can use. They even took the pickled beets!

Neighbors can feel dignified through “shopping like at a grocery store.”
Neighbors take the food they will use and leave the rest for others, which reduces food waste.

As you prepare to learn about choice pantries, please know that we do not expect every pantry to be the same. Choice pantries don’t have to be all or nothing! Each community we serve is different and has different needs. We are here to work with you. Reach out with any questions or concerns.

Here are some ways to implement choice in your pantries. 

  • Full: Neighbors select the items, flavors, and varieties of food they want as
    they walk through and shop like they would at a grocery store, in-person, or
    online. For example, a neighbor may select “chicken noodle soup”, “canned
    corn”, or “frozen chicken.” Pantry may limit quantities.
  • Modified: Neighbors can state their preference of food items but not choose
    specific flavors or varieties. For example, a neighbor may select a category
    such as “canned vegetable”, but not a specific type such as “green beans.” 
  • Limited: Neighbors can either choose from a few types of prepacked boxes or
    receive a prepacked box and also choose some specific food items such as
    produce and bread.

Before you hit the “Next Lesson” button, the most important thing to remember is to focus on one step at a time!

If you have always used pre-packed boxes or bags, this can be a significant change for your pantry and can take some time to get used to the new routine. The following are the basic steps to implement a choice pantry. Let’s get to learning!

When you’re done, remember to click “Next Lesson”!

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