Saturday, January 15, 2011


Last year I became the person in charge of my local elementary school's Food Pantry. Every Friday afternoon we give away food to those at the school who need it ($150, 000 worth last year), and until this day that has been about 50 families (in a school of just over 300 students that is pretty significant). Every week I see the same people and I have come to know them pretty well. We have managed to make our little Pantry a very friendly one where no one seems to be embarrassed or shamed. It ends up being a pretty social event with lots of people staying to chat with one another while the kids peek into the bags to see if there are any snacks to pillage.

Friday, through a misunderstanding several people were encouraged to come for food before we were officially open. There are usually one or two people who just can't wait until we are open for any number of very good reasons. The other families understand that there are some who have special needs, so there has never been a problem. The people who came today were new to the program and my guess is that they are accustomed to other pantries where people have to stand in line and competition for food is sometimes quite stiff. I couldn't believe how pushy they were, or how unwilling to listen. There are very few times when I feel even a little bit of stress while at the Pantry, but this was little bit like being in shark tank.

By the end of the day, we had increased our client list by 50%! It is good to know that there are people in need who have now been identified. I have increased the amount of food we will be shipped each week and I will increase the time the Pantry is open to accommodate these new people. They, however, will have to learn the rules- no pushing, no grabbing, no snatch and run... in other words, this will be a very calm, civilized Pantry. There is no reason on Earth why charity has to be uncivil or aggressive. This is not an emergency air drop of C-rations to a disaster zone.

Maybe this week I will play some music and hide the food a little bit so I can keep a tighter lid on poor behavior.


Andy said...

Love the fact that your school has a food pantry! That's awesome. The world needs more organizations - schools, churches, etc. - that are willing to step up and give back. Great job!

Adrienne Johnson said...

I sometimes play with the idea of opening Pantries at he middle and high schools the other two go to, but it is so much work. I may try to get them to find their own people to start something later this year. There is so much work to do out in the world isn't there?

Do you remember that little soup kitchen we went to in the Mission when we were teens? I think about that place from time to time. It is a studio now. I remember there was a guy there who was an immigrant/political refugee from Peru. He had a PhD and was a University professor in math and wanted to tutor me to help pay back all the help he and his sick roommate got from the kitchen. I have wondered what happened to him for over 20 years.