New Initiatives in the Works at Choice Food Pantry
January 2020 BONUS online content
The west side neighborhood which is home to Catholic Social Services’ Choice Food Pantry has long been recognized as a food desert – a designation reserved for areas where residents lack access to quality healthy food options. For many years now, the West Riverview Avenue pantry has been an oasis of sorts by providing fresh fruits and vegetables during the five days a week it operates.
While there are limitations to how often a family can access the full pantry shopping experience (once every 30 days), the pantry welcomes its guests to visit as frequently as they’d like to access the fresh fruits and vegetables available each day.
New Pantry Coordinator Ash Cummings says that providing resources beyond a once-a-month pantry visit helps CSSMV address multiple issues in the community. Cummings would like to see these types of opportunities grow. “The primary mission of our pantry is supplementing a family’s food resources to increase their security. But providing and encouraging healthier options while educating our clients about the importance of a healthy diet is also important,” she said.
Beyond seeking more variety and consistency in the fruit and vegetable options, CSSMV plans to turn the pantry into more of a resource for community members to learn about healthy eating habits. The agency’s Mission Services team plans to provide more practical recipe ideas for clients, based on the items available each day. Efforts are underway to create programs that will involve local parishes and organizations in the endeavor. “One hope I have for 2020 is that we can host crock pot cooking classes regularly where we show people how to cook delicious, healthy meals using items available in the pantry,” said Cummings. “For many of our clients, cooking in a crock pot may be new to them, but it’s often an easier and less time-consuming way to prepare a meal for your family.”
CSSMV Parish and Community Relations Coordinator Mike Hoendorf sees a great match between these efforts and the desires he has heard from the agency’s community partners. “Many of our supporters want to help us with direct service,” said Hoendorf. “These cooking classes will not only provide an opportunity for direct service, but also allow our clients to leave with their own crock pot and the knowledge of how to use it.”
As the pantry’s new coordinator, Cummings is eager to try out these and other innovative ideas for serving the needs of the community. After finishing two years on an AmeriCorps VISTA assignment with CSSMV’s marketing and development office, and then working for a short time as a refugee employment specialist, Cummings has learned a lot about the variety of ways CSSMV can impact the lives of its clients. “The Choice Food Pantry is often the first interaction clients have with our agency. For some, it’s a one-time visit in a time of significant need. But for others who require greater support, we hope the pantry can serve as a welcoming place where they can begin addressing more complicated issues in their lives that led them to us in the first place.”
The Choice Food Pantry will serve more than 15,000 unique individuals this year, but the Mission Services department also provides case management when a family’s challenges become more significant. In addition to case workers on-site at the pantry, CSSMV has a case manager at Kiser Elementary to serve families of students at the neighborhood school in Old North Dayton, and a unique college-focused case management program at Sinclair Community College.
If your organization or group would be interested in supporting CSSMV and its clients by hosting a crock pot cooking class or would like to volunteer in another capacity at the Choice Food Pantry, please contact Mike Hoendorf at (937) 223-7217 ext. 1141 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.