A Better Food Pantry: Part 1

Lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic: how food banks and pantries can be reinvented to operate more efficiently to address food insecurity. This 4-part blog series will address the background, needs, and vision for a more innovative response to delivering food to communities in need.

What is food insecurity, & how do food pantries operate?

The Covid-19 Pandemic taught us all a lot about food. When the world entered 2020, we had a very defined view of how to address the most vulnerable of our community. What we didn’t realize was how quickly and dramatically that group would grow over the following 18 months. Due to sudden unemployment, illness, or limited supportive services many people found themselves for the first-time seeking support for Basic Human Needs for the first time.

The response was rapidly deployed government aid directly to people in need and to nonprofit organizations that had typically responded to crisis situations in the past. The largest of these include names we are all familiar with in Northeastern Illinois: United Way, Catholic Charities, and Feeding America.

Adelante Center was less than a year old and we were invited to join the collective group of human services organizations providing solutions to food insecure residents in Lake County, IL through the traditional methods: food pantries, prepared meal delivery, food boxes. Like any early-stage corporation (nonprofit or for profit) we approached the crisis with very limited direct experience in solving the food security crisis. However, we also knew that the wisest approach was to go in with open eyes and an open mind to identify gaps in where services were being provided that may be improved on, and pivot into solving those problems.

What emerged was a plan to develop an integrated community food center that would utilize a collective impact ecosystem approach to addressing food security and improving the local food supply chain and stimulate jobs and new businesses within the most vulnerable communities.

Learn more about Adelante Center’s Post Marketplace food ecosystem

Before arriving at the solution, it’s important to take a look at the problem in front of us and the current methods underway to solve the problem. In this case, there were food pantries and pop-up pantries emerging everywhere, so we had plenty of examples to study. However, let’s start with a look at what food insecurity is and what food deserts are.

Living with Low Food Security

The Covid-19 Pandemic taught us all a lot about food. When the world entered 2020, we had a very defined view of how we assist the most vulnerable of our community. What we didn’t realize was how quickly and dramatically that group would grow over the following 18 months. Due to sudden unemployment, illness, or limited supportive services, many people found themselves seeking support to meet basic human needs for the first time.

The response was rapidly deployed government aid directly to people in need and to nonprofit organizations that had typically responded to crisis situations in the past. The largest of these include names we are all familiar with in Northeastern Illinois: United Way, Catholic Charities, and Feeding America.

The Adelante Center was less than a year old at this time and we were invited to join the collective group of human services organizations providing solutions to food insecure residents in Lake County, IL. Assistance took form in traditional methods such as food pantries, prepared meal delivery, and food boxes. Like any early-stage corporation (nonprofit or for profit), we approached the crisis with very limited direct experience in solving the food security crisis. However, we also knew that the wisest approach was to go in with open eyes and an open mind. We looked at the current services that were being provided, identified some areas that could be improved, and got to work on plans to improve some of those problems.

What emerged was a plan to develop an integrated community food center that would utilize a collective impact ecosystem approach to addressing food security and improving the local food supply chain and stimulate jobs and new businesses within the most vulnerable communities.

Learn more about Adelante Center’s Post Marketplace food ecosystem

Before arriving at the solution, it’s important to take a look at the problem in front of us and the current methods underway to solve the problem. In this case, there were food pantries and pop-up pantries emerging everywhere, so we had plenty of examples to study. However, let’s start with a look at what food insecurity is and what food deserts are.

Learn more about Adelante Center’s Post Marketplace food ecosystem

 

Written by:  Ken Barber, Executive Director, Adelante Center for Entrepreneurship

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 Adelante Center for Entrepreneurship is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit program focused on creating wealth and jobs in communities with economic challenges.

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