Boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese line one shelf at the Helping Hands’ food pantry. Another brims with bags of egg noodles and uncooked spaghetti. Others feature neat rows of canned fruits and vegetables: green beans, diced tomatoes, and more.
The pantry is crowded on Tuesday morning. Clients weave miniature red grocery carts around a central table, picking products from the shelves as volunteers offer guidance.
But the pantry did not always look and work this way. The shelves, carts, and rows of food are all new.
On Tuesday, the Helping Hands’ pantry unveiled its “client-choice” model, which changes the way services are provided. Previously, those in need of food received bags of groceries prepared in advance by volunteers. Each bag contained the same items, more or less.
The new system forgoes the prebagged model for a storelike approach. Now, clients can select their own groceries, choosing products based on individual needs and household preferences.
“Hopefully, less food will go to waste that way,” said volunteer Elder Rylan Houser, now of Oregon, who is in the area serving a mission with the Mormon church.
Staff member Sue Shrewsbery, who has been working at Helping Hands for 12 years, praised the new format.
“It’s been great,” she said. “The volunteers love it; the clients seem to like it.”
The transition to client-choice had been in the works for a while, but a partnership with the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department largely allowed Helping Hands to make the switch. The department donated carts, recipes, and pamphlets about healthful eating, Ms. Shrewsbery said.
Open from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the pantry is just one program offered by the Helping Hands of St. Louis Outreach Center, run by the Catholic Charities Diocese of Toledo. Located at 443 6th St., the center offers other services — such as hot lunches, hygiene products, and access to donated clothing — depending on each client’s residency and level of need. Those who can’t be assisted at the East Toledo building are referred to other agencies.
Volunteers Austin Ammanniti of Bellevue, Ohio, and David Kidd of Lima, Ohio, are seminary students at Pontifical North American College in Rome. They spent Tuesday morning sorting canned goods in a room adjacent to the pantry. Both have volunteered at Helping Hands in the past and said the switch to client-choice is among many changes they’ve seen since their first stint at the center three years ago.
“Now it’s grown so much,” Mr. Ammanniti said. “It’s a great thing to see.”
Contact Marissa Medansky at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6368.