gcustomers can now “shop” in a convenience store-like setting at Community Food Bank of Greater Pittsburgh — an experience that hunger advocates say gives them more choice and brings more dignity to the food distribution process.
The market opened September 28 and continues to grow. It provides Pittsburgher residents with free stable, produce, meat, dairy and non-food items at the food bank headquarters at 1 N. Linden St. in Duquesne. It works in partnership with giant eagle, who contributed financially to the establishment and operation of The Market. Giant Eagle also assisted with the installation using their retail expertise.
“The market is the food bank’s on-site pantry,” says Charlese McKinney, program director. “It’s a small space the size of a convenience store, where our customers come in – they’re greeted and welcomed – and then they connect with us and then they can shop for the groceries they need for their families. .”
Before the market opened, the food bank offered individuals emergency pre-packaged boxes of food and referred them to a local food pantry in their area. The food bank has focused on storing and transporting food within its 11-county network.
“My personal thing about it is really people can really feel like they’re not getting handouts. The vibe at the Market is really vibrant,” says McKinney. “We really embrace our neighbours, it’s very communal and it’s so nice to see smiles on the faces of not only our guests, but also our volunteers and staff. That sense of community is something that really feeds my soul and I’m so glad we’re able to do that.
The market has evolved from years of intentional pre-packaging boxes, adding frozen and fresh produce to the mix and creating a small dedicated space focused on offering choices to customers.
There is a stigma surrounding food aid, and The Market aims to help reduce that, she says.
“We’re really going to dedicate a space where families can come in, we can serve them with more dignity and respect and really allow them to make their own choices,” McKinney says. “We wanted to attract not only our families who were coming, but also the families who weren’t coming because of the unfortunate stigma that is attached to food aid. We wanted to make this as normal as possible and really feel like a community space, where people would feel welcome and not a place where they would be ashamed because they needed a little help.
The market’s current hours of operation for shopping are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The food bank is open to provide assistance from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but a few hours are needed for shift changes and restocking. Clients can still come to the food bank during these few hours, but they will receive a pre-packaged selection.
If customers cannot make it to the market during these hours, they can shop online through “Order Ahead”. People can choose their rides and select a pickup date and time. Order Ahead does not include The Market’s full inventory, but it does include a variety of items. It works five days a week, and the food bank is looking to expand that inventory.
The market is trying to implement an outdoor refrigerated locker system in the new year. This will allow families to place orders for their groceries and pick them up when the market is closed.
The Market hopes to soon offer evening and Saturday hours to be available to more people.
Not all of the food in the market comes from Giant Eagle – it comes from a variety of sources. There are government products, donated food products and items purchased by the food bank.
The food bank is looking for volunteers to help staff and restock the market. They can work in the morning or in the afternoon by registering on line. They can do everything from stocking shelves to welcoming guests.
The market offers shopping companions, who are volunteers who work with customers, informing them of inventory, discussing resources, sharing recipe cards, answering questions, packing groceries and helping transport groceries to customers’ cars or carts.
Volunteers can also register the entrances and exits of people. The market is like a grocery store – they scan all the items customers choose. This is so that the food bank can understand what people want so they can stock up on more desired items, but also in the event of a food recall, the food bank can contact those people to provide them with the instructions. appropriate.
“It’s a huge lift and really requires a lot of support. We really rely on volunteers to help out,” McKinney says. “If anyone is interested in giving us some of their time to help with operations from The Market, we’d love for him to get in touch and let us know, and we’d be happy to put him to work.”