At The Salem Pantry, empowering our community is central to our mission. We believe everyone deserves access to fresh, healthy food, delivered in a comfortable and dignified environment. With the introduction of The Market and The Truck, we have not only transformed our programs but have also created a new era of empowerment through a full client choice model.
Full Client Choice: Empowering Our Guests
Our full client choice model is centered around giving our guests the autonomy to enter the pantry, touch and inspect the food, and select the items they feel are best for their families’ needs. Supported by clear signage and the availability of volunteers to help, if necessary, this creates a structured yet independent ‘shopping’ experience.
Why We Choose Full Client Choice
In the face of a chronic food insecurity crisis in Salem and the North Shore communities, the traditional emergency relief pantry model is insufficient. We strongly believe that empowering our guests to make their own choices is the most effective way to tackle the ongoing challenges of food insecurity, creating an experience that honors the unique needs and preferences of each guest while also increasing the efficiency of our food pantry operations.
The traditional food pantry model, with little to no client choice, is known for moving food that may have gone to waste from food rescue partners to community members in need of food. While this may seem like an efficient way to reduce waste, when guests cannot choose which food they receive, it may only delay the inevitable. At The Salem Pantry, we pride ourselves on providing a diverse selection of food, recognizing that every guest may not want or need every item we offer. With the full client model, we gain a better understanding of our guests’ preferences, ensuring that the food leaving our doors is more likely to be put to good use.
We are aware that those who come to us for support can be in a very vulnerable position. We hope that with our full client choice model, our guests will have the most comfortable and dignified experience possible whenever they do need us. This model creates an experience that most Americans are familiar with: a trip to the grocery store. The ability to “shop” on your own allows guests to maintain a sense of pride and allows our staff and volunteers to have more positive interactions with our guests, engaging in conversations and supporting, as needed.
Recent data shows that only 50% of the food-insecure families in Massachusetts have turned to food pantries for support (Greater Boston Food Bank, 2023 MA Survey). It has also been reported that the negative stigma around food pantries has decreased, with high numbers of families who do use food pantries reporting that the food they were provided was helpful, culturally relevant, and food they know how to prepare – all things we hope to achieve with the full client choice model. Decreasing stigma around the food pantry experience is a meaningful way to ensure that the food we provide reaches the families who need it and that they feel comfortable using us as a resource, thus limiting food insecurity in our communities.
We are enthusiastic about The Salem Pantry’s future with the introduction of The Market and The Truck, both operating on a full client choice model. As many families look to us for support, we are confident that the positive experiences and nourishing food they receive during their visits will play a pivotal role in empowering our community.