Pantry Opportunities

General Information:

The following provides general descriptions of the numerous tasks that are required to make the food pantry operate smoothly and efficiently. Potential volunteers can browse them to see what is entailed in various aspects of the pantry, and to see where their talents and interests might fit in. Current volunteers can use them to refresh their memories of what the various jobs entail.

Acquiring Food:

We have regularly scheduled Wednesday morning pick-ups at the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) satellite location in New Bedford, MA. Food can be picked up at the GBFB Boston warehouse at other times by making an appointment. Bread products are also picked up at Gold Medal Bakery in Fall River the Friday morning before each distribution. Food donation pick-ups from organizations, businesses, groups, and individuals are arranged when we are contacted. Food is also purchased and picked-up from local stores as needed to compliment the food received from these other sources.

2-3 people spend about 7 hours each per month driving the pantry's box truck to the appropriate location (Fall River, New Bedford or Boston) and pick up the food order. They transport the food order to the pantry, where it is unloaded, inventoried, and refrigerated items placed in freezers and refrigerator as needed.

Currently an average of 1,200 to 1,800 pounds of food is picked up at each of the scheduled GBFB New Bedford pickups. At any given time the food pick-up personnel may need to lift and or move trays/cases between 10-50 pounds.

Sorting an Stocking:

Between the time that food is picked up and it is distributed, each item is checked to verify that it is not damaged and that it is not out of date. This process is also done with donated food received from other than GBFB or “Salvage” food received from GBFB. After items are checked the shelves are stocked, carts are readied, and the pantry cleaned. 3-4 people spend about 6 hours each per month on Friday mornings before a distribution.

When new food is received it is sorted in cardboard trays, stored in the inventory/sorting room, marked with the date received and whether it is USDA Food. Guest choice shelves are restocked with inventory food stock using the oldest stock first. Outdated food that has been determined safe to eat per the GBFB “Food Keeper” guidelines is placed on the “Unlimited” shelf only. When we receive items other than food, i.e., toiletries, paper goods, or special food such as baby food or nutritional food items, and over the counter medicine, they are also checked and placed on the “Personal Item” shelf. Expired baby food is discarded. Bread products are counted and organized. The food distribution hand carts are setup by inserting bags so they are ready when guests start arriving. Bags used are grocery type plastic and or plastic and paper. Floors are swept prior to each distribution.

At any given time the sort personnel may need to lift and or move trays/cases between 10-24 pounds.

Registration

In order to obtain free United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Massachusetts Emergency Food Acquisition Program (MEFAP) food from GBFB we are required to provide certain information about the quantity of food we distribute and certain demographic information about our clients. The information we collect for each household is: first name and birth date of each family member, household address, and a signature that declares that they meet USDA’s financial guidelines for accepting USDA food. Prior to going to the pantry to obtain groceries, each client registers at the food pantry's laptop computer.

3-4 people about 6 hours each per month

Prior to the distribution, a 'ticket person' distributes “lottery” tickets to guests. One ticket per vehicle (so all in the same vehicle go through together). Half of the ticket is given to the guest and put the other half (with clients first names) in the basket to be drawn randomly, and distribute and collect registration forms from “new” families as needed. The 'computer person' and 'sign-in' person sets up the computer, USDA sign-in book, family size cards, USDA cards, PA system, new registration forms, and distribution schedules.

During the distribution, the ticket person starts the registration with the Lord’s Prayer, draw tickets randomly and give guests a sequentially numbered card once they are called. The computer person logs in guests on the ADHFP Laptop, and adds “new“ guests, to the excel database, gives them the appropriate pantry and clothing cards for their family size. The sign-in person writes the family ID number on ID Log sheet and has guests sign the USDA form on the appropriate family ID line.

After the distribution, The computer person saves and closes the sign in file. All help putting away all registration paperwork and supplies.

Pantry

Once registered at the food pantry laptop computer, clients cross the parking lot and enter the pantry through the side ramp door. They are met by a volunteer who escorts them through the pantry and helps them pick groceries from various sections of the pantry. Quantities allowed vary and depend on household size. When finished, other volunteers (as available) escort the clients to their cars and return the empty carts to the pantry. More detailed descriptions follow below.

Pantry Setup - This effort is required to ensure that the pantry and volunteers are ready when our guests arrive. 1 person for about 30-45 minutes prior to each distribution is responsible for:

  • Reviewing and adjusting quantities as necessary on “items allowed” cards for each shelf according to quantities available in each section.

  • Ensuring floodlights are on at evening distributions.

  • Introducing new volunteers other volunteers and providing an overview of the duties and expectations.

  • Assigning volunteers as necessary (dairy, bread, car escorts, etc).

  • Starting with a prayer.

Grocery Distribution - During the 2 hour distribution, 5-10 volunteers are required as guest escorts. Each volunteer escorts one guest through the pantry and assists with picking the appropriate number of items from each section of the pantry. 1-2 volunteers are required to support the distribution of refrigerated and frozen items and 1 volunteer may (not required) support the distribution of bread products. Further details of responsibilities are:

  • Greet each guest pleasantly as they arrive at the door.

    • Welcome them and provide your first name as an introduction.

    • Verify that they have the sequentially numbered ADHFP card, and a family size card.

  • Walk each guest through allowing them to choose the appropriate number of items from each section.

  • If there are additional volunteers available to escort guests to their cars, let them do so and return to greet another guest and assist them through the pantry.

  • If there are no volunteers available to escort guests to their cars, continue to escort the guest to their car and if able, load the groceries, then bring the cart back to the ADHFP entrance (side ramp door), place new bags in the cart, and get ready to greet and escort the next guest.

  • Communicate with registration to ensure a smooth flow of guests

If a volunteer has health or mobility issues, there are several other ways to help other than escorting guests through the pantry.

  • a volunteer can sit by the carts and place bags in the arriving empty carts so they are ready for use.

  • a volunteer can sit by the bread and help distribute bread and bags there or sit by the refrigerators and help distribute dairy or protein there.

  • a volunteer can break up empty cardboard containers, or collect empty trays to put in the sort/stock room.

Pantry Shutdown - After the distribution is over there are several efforts required to secure the pantry. This will take 1-2 people about 15-30 minutes. This includes:

  • Bringing the numbered cards, and family size cards back to registration desk

  • Ensuring floodlights are turned off at evening distributions.

  • Consolidating freezer items and shutting off empty freezers.

  • Consolidating refrigerator items and shutting off empty refrigerators.

  • Bringing cardboard to recycle bins.

  • Shutting off all lights and ensuring windows are closed and the doors are locked.