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Tours of Two San Diego Food Banks Display New Method for Food Distribution

Feb 11, 2017 10:06PM ● By Linda Heath

Tours of Two San Diego Food Banks Displays a New Method for Distribution. The client is able to select food items they want rather than a pre-packaged bag of items.

A tour of two San Diego Food Banks was attended by various members of Community groups who service the needy and homeless in San Diego County.  The San Diego Food Bank, San Diego Food System Alliance, Feeding San Diego and various city Food Banks were part of the tour.  

The tour's focus was a different perspective on food distribution to the recipient.  What is a Client Choice Food Pantry?  The current system by most food banks/pantries is to distribute pre-bagged canned and non-perishable goods and fresh or froze items if available.  This provides for total equality for everyone, but doesn't allow for client preferences or personal dietary requirements.  This impacts those clients with medical conditions with food restrictions or food allergies.  A Client Choice Model allows for these potentially different needs of the Client.  It also cuts down on food waste since having a choice eliminates discarding what is unwanted or not allowed in the diet.

The first stop was Jewish Family Services and their method was a client choice process that has a "point" system.  The points are derived by the choices the consumer makes, with healthy choices having no points, such as all fruit and vegetables and meat.  The choice of sweets or packaged foods generate points and a finite number of points are allowed per month.

The Food Bank has a large food storage area, prep kitchen and walk in freezer and they receive donations from the San Diego Food Bank, various grocers, bread stores, private donors, and grants.  They also offer other social services in conjunction with the food bank.

Our second stop was Catholic Charities.  They also have a Client Choice program but with different parameters.  They have a smaller space, but offer fresh fruit and vegetables and refrigerated and frozen item.  Their clients are allowed to choose the items they want and have a limit of how many of one item they may take.  They have other items of interest such as recipe books provided by the San Diego Food Bank.  They receive food from the San Diego Food Bank, Feeding San Diego and other donors and grants.

This tour was very informative and generated many questions.  This system of distribution seems to solve many issues and helps to cut back food waste, and increase a healthy diet.  I encourage you to contact the San Diego Food Bank, Feeding San Diego and do a web search for the Client Choice Food Pantry for more information.
Linda Heath, Senior Reporter,


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