Food bank in Post Falls operates like a supermarket for its clients
|Lori Freeman Weaver greets guests at the Post Falls Food Bank.|
“I try to make our guests feel welcome,” she said, describing the dread some people feel when they enter for the first time. She wants them to feel at ease.
Leslie Orth, executive director, calls Lori “the face of the food bank.” She began working at the food bank in November 2014. At that time, registered guests received a small shopping cart of food that was pre-packed. Guests had little say about what they received each visit.
In March 2016, Leslie put into motion a dream set forth by Sherry Wallis, former executive director, and the Board of Directors.
The Post Falls Food Bank did a major remodel of their facility and became a “Choice Market.”
“Most food banks don’t run like a market,” Lori said.
Once the guests have signed in, they take a shopping cart and go into the market, where they are able to go up and down the aisles and choose what they want. They are assigned points the first day of each month that they use like cash. They are responsible for budgeting their points throughout the month, Lori said.
Guests must submit paperwork corresponding with criteria set forth by the food bank and its grantors to qualify for services. Some information can be printed during the intake or recertification, so guests don’t have to leave and come back.
“For some, the work of qualifying for resources they need is too much work. I want to make it easier for them,” Lori said. “I’m trying to empower them.”
Leslie encouraged Lori to help guests with resourcing and created office space for her when they changed to the market concept.
The food bank serves from 85 to 100 families every day, Monday through Friday. In addition to signing in, guests sign out when they are finished shopping.
“We track points and weights to help with grant reports,” said Lori.
She described the market as sensible in the way it uses the points. Produce and vegetables have zero points. People can take as much as they want.
“I love the people we serve and have gotten to know many of them well. It’s a little village in here,” she said.
Camaraderie is a lifestyle at this food bank, she added. Friendships are formed among all involved. Volunteers help volunteers. Clients help clients.
“We have put up a swap board, the ‘Food Bank Craigslist,’ where people can post goods and services for our ‘village’ to share,” Lori said.
Leslie allows flexibility in the way staff members work with guests, because the food bank is not government funded.
“My boss trusts my judgment,” Lori said. “The gray area is what makes us stand out.”
She believes that is why the Post Falls Food Bank is so successful. The food bank follows strict food safety guidelines.
“We do not serve out-of-date food or expired produce. Any spoilage goes to area pig farmers who have contracted with the food bank. They, in turn, donate a locally grown and processed pig to the food bank.
“It’s a win-win,” she said.
The food bank also partners with other agencies that offer food, such as Real Life Ministries and other area soup kitchens.
“They’ll be able to feed their clients. We make good use of our food excess,” she said.
Lori believes that her life experiences have given her the drive to offer compassionate care to those at the food bank.
She remembers being amazed at how hard her single-parent mother worked and wondering why no one helped her.
“My mom raised us to try hard, to do what’s right and to be kind,” she said. “Realizing that not everybody is in the same place at the same time has been a lesson for me.”
While remodeling the food bank building, when the floors were resurfaced, Lori requested that the words, “Food for the Soul,” be painted into the finish.
“That’s who we are,” she said.
In coming to know the guests well over time, she has not only encouraged banter, but also encouraged people to care for one another as she and others help people find the resources they need. Lori feels passionate about her work.
“Out of the crises I went through, being part of this organization is a mutual benefit for me and our guests,” she said.
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Copyright © February 2017 - The Fig Tree