“There is nothing quite like seeing this for yourself to understand why this is so important,” said Rick Pesavento, United Way of DuPage/West Cook Fundraising Manager, as we reconvened in the community room after an enlightening tour of Loaves and Fishes Community Pantry in Naperville, Illinois. “This really helps us tell the story to our donors as we collect food all across the region for April Food Day.”
The Client Choice model gives clients a sense of dignity as they shop through the rows of what feels like the typical grocery store. The most nutritious choices are marked with a “Smart Check” label that indicates the item is low in sugar, salt, fat and high in fiber. Clients are given an allotted number of choices in each category based on family size, and they can select the items within each food group that meet their family’s tastes and nutritional needs.
“This leads to less waste and addresses any cultural and family preferences,” said Jane Macdonald Sr. Program Director of Loaves & Fishes.
The organization’s five guiding principles, Community, Compassion, Dignity, Hope and Service were apparent in every part of their operation. More than 100 volunteers dedicate their time and service each day. Loaves and Fishes can proudly boast national recognition as one of the leaders in “food recovery.”
Jody Bender, their Community Relations Director, told our group: “Food recovery or food rescue is the practice of safely retrieving foods that would otherwise go to waste–and a perfect way to provide many more fresh food items to our clients. Once delivered or picked up by our pantry, our volunteers sort through racks carrying fruits and vegetables of all varieties to pull the items that are usable. Within 24 to 48 hours, the remaining products are in the kitchens of needy area families.”
In line with United Way of DuPage/West Cook’s agency partners, Loaves and Fishes does more than provide one-time direct service–they provide a holistic approach and offer wrap-around supportive services such as ESL classes, help accessing benefits, and employment assistance to help people break the cycle of poverty. Loaves and Fishes calls this approach “Pathways to Empowerment” as it charts a course to self-sufficiency.
As quoted by one of their clients, “At one point of my life, I had it together. Never would I have thought I would be waiting in line at a food pantry. Once I lost my job at a mortgage company, I found myself seeking assistance to meet the daily needs for my child and myself. I have now volunteered and am giving back to the community. Thank you for sharing and caring.”
If you or your company would like to donate food to April Food Day, click here to find a drop-off location in your area. For sponsorship opportunities, contact Jamana Jamison at 630.645.6339 or Jamana.Jamison@uw-mc.org.