Shopper’s choice model implemented at St. John’s pantry

October 27, 2023

Donna Bailey, from left; Maggy McCole, and Stephanie McDonough are among the volunteers at St. John the Apostle Food Pantry in Milford.

One of the Food Bank of Delaware’s long-time partner agencies – St. John the Apostle Food Pantry – has changed the way it’s serving neighbors who live with food insecurity.

When people come to the pantry from 10 a.m. – noon on Mondays or Fridays, they can decide what items they want in their bag on that day – so they don’t receive food they don’t need or want.  Stephanie McDonough, pantry supervisor, explained that until a few weeks ago pantry volunteers filled bags with a variety of foods, including cereal, pasta, vegetables, tuna, peanut butter, and meat, if it was available. After neighbors checked in at the pantry just inside the church hall on School Place, they all received a bag containing the same shelf-stable food.

After McDonough took over the pantry’s leadership post and met with Lisa Gibbs, the Food Bank’s Agency Experience Manger, she learned about a different food distribution model: shopper’s choice. While some pantries offer an online check-in and selection process, McDonough and other volunteers who help with the pantry, thought a paper checklist – in English and Spanish — might be friendlier and more accessible to those who use the pantry. “It’s mostly seniors,” McDonough noted.

“This seems to work better for us and them,” she added. The bottom line is that people aren’t given what they don’t want, need, or comply with their personal dietary limitations,  and there is less waste. McDonough explained that some people would return food they couldn’t use, but the recently implemented shopper’s choice protocol means neighbors don’t have to take that extra strep.

Volunteers save the checklists because they can also be useful when the pantry places food orders; the pantry won’t be stocking food that won’t be selected. “It’s obviously working,” said McDonough.

In addition, neighbors may receive household items – laundry detergent, toilet paper, personal hygiene items, and food that appeals to younger palates, if there are children in the household.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *