Each Friday this summer, a couple dozen volunteers will stand under the sun unloading fresh produce, thoughtfully lining crates under an awning to create a colorful marketplace.

Some people might wonder if it would be easier to simply bag all the items and disperse to families in assembly-line fashion. Perhaps they would be right, but we’d like to share why our self-select approach is of profound importance at GRACE.

But first, some quick background:

The Mobile Food Pantry was born to utilize groceries donated at the end of the week at the peak of freshness so families could enjoy wholesome food over the weekend.

More commonly referred to as GRACE Grocery Giveaway, the food is loaded in large trucks and set up at a predesignated Feed Our Kids site. Families are giving advanced notice of our arrival, and are usually participating in Feed Our Kids for easy access.

Staging the food like a farmer’s market takes the same intention as the self-select philosophy at the Food Pantry. Families can choose from a variety of healthy foods that fit their family’s cultural and dietary needs.

This seemingly small shift in the dynamic preserves the integrity of every parent grateful to feed their families, while acknowledging that families at-risk for hunger benefit from an array of healthy options that best fit their family table.

So while it might seem more efficient to give a family a bag of food (and each year, GRACE Grocery Giveaway provides an average of 12,000 bags of food to families in need) we prefer the personal exchange from one family to another.

Volunteer slots are filling up quickly for this anticipated-program, but if you have time between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Friday’s we’d love to talk to you. View the sign up sheet here, and contact Volunteer Manager Lara Hohweiler to be on the waiting list as a substitute.