New food pantry puts emphasis on dignity

Allowing a person in need to shop for their own groceries is more dignified than handing over a box of pre-selected groceries, according to an official with a new food pantry in Decatur.

Jamaal Ellis, commanding officer of The Salvation Army Atlanta-Peachcrest, said the new food pantry at the organization’s 3500 Sherrydale Lane site operates on the premise that dignity is a vital component in getting people back on their feet.

“Client dignity is important,” said Ellis, adding that they focus on “Anything we can do to boost how they feel about their confidence and self-esteem.”

The new pantry is a larger and reconfigured space compared to the previous pantry that the organization operated, according to Ellis. The old pantry was so small and narrow that only one person could enter at a time. Now clients can enter the pantry, which is open Monday through Thursday, use a shopping cart to collect the items they want, and “check out” with staff.

“This changes the game being able to just shop,” he said.

A client looks over shelves at The Salvation Army Atlanta-Peachcrest’s food pantry before selecting items.

The pantry shelves are lined with items such as boxes of macaroni and cheese, cans of beef stew, tuna fish, chicken noodle soup and an assortment of beans.

Since the pantry’s reopening in August, “We haven’t been able to keep food on the shelves.”

Ellis said one of the issues with giving away boxes of pre-selected food items is waste, giving people things they aren’t going to use. The new system of having clients shop for themselves gives pantry personnel a better idea of what clients want and need based on what they take from the shelves.

Last Thanksgiving, while the old pantry was closed, clients kept calling. “The need for food was overwhelming,” Ellis said. “We found ourselves giving away so much food.”
In two days, two pallets of food items were given away, he said.

The Salvation Army Atlanta-Peachcrest services about 50-100 DeKalb families through its food pantry after families are reviewed and registered.

Food for the pantry is purchased using monetary donations, and organizations such as food store Publix and other Salvation Army branches also donate canned and boxed goods. Ellis encouraged the public wanting to assist the pantry to give financial donations.

Atlanta-Peachcrest also has a community garden and fresh produce is made available to clients from the garden.

Coming up in a few weeks on Dec. 1 is Can-A-Thon, an annual food drive in which the public drops off canned goods at various locations with the items going to The Salvation Army of Metro Atlanta.


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