In Abingdon, Va., local residents know that tough choices are not uncommon.
While the majority of the state of Virginia's unemployment rate remains low at 3.9 percent, Abingdon is still experiencing some of the highest rates of unemployment. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Va., the Stone Soup Food Pantry at Ecumenical Faith in Action has seen a 20 percent increase in clients over the past four years and was almost at maximum capacity. Therefore, when the food pantry found out it was being awarded as a recipient of Food Lion Feeds "The Great Pantry Makeover," they could not have been more surprised or pleased.
Larry Bays, Executive Director of the Food Pantry, said the timing was amazing. Earlier in the year, the board challenged Larry to come up with a three-year-plan to convert the pantry to a client choice model. The Great Pantry Makeover award allowed them to accomplish their goal this year.
"We will now be able to serve clients in a whole new way," said Bays. "Client choice will help empower our clients."
The pantry makeover enabled them to replace the ceiling and lights, buy shelves, a new cooler, shopping carts and an assortment of non-perishable and fresh food items to stock the shelves and the new freezer.
Bays and his team have been working to educate their clients and volunteers on client choice during the renovations.
"Just because someone is poor doesn't mean they make bad choices," Bays said. "Clients will now be empowered to select the foods their families will enjoy and know how to prepare, thus eliminating waste."
The role of the volunteer will also change under this new model. Pamela Irvine, President and CEO of Feeding America Southwest Virginia, says the new model "will allow volunteers to interact more with the clients and build caring and supportive relationships with the client."
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