Basements can be a lot of things: family rooms, guest rooms, storage space, or shelter from a storm. But they’re not as practical for a food shelf.
Back in August of 2020, the Falls Hunger Coalition reached out to FFEN in hopes that they could transition their basement food shelf to a new space, both to improve ease of use for staff and shoppers and to create a more welcoming environment.
After an initial consultation, FFEN and Falls Hunger Coalition came up with a list of changes to improve space and food options.
Through FFEN’s Food Sourcing Analysis (FSA) report, they found that Falls Hunger Coalition could save money on their food purchasing while also offering more fresh options and other highly-requested items. By increasing deliveries from the local food bank to twice a month, ordering more free government-subsidized items through TEFAP, and continuing to accept donations, the food shelf was able to provide more desired food for less money.
“The analysis on our food purchasing [FFEN] did … you should hear our board meetings now when they look at our differences in food costs. Now that we’re utilizing TEFAP the way I think it’s supposed to be utilized, our board just goes, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe, is this possible?" Says Christina Daniel, Assistant Director.
The food shelf was able to go from getting 36% of their food through TEFAP to getting 68% of their food through TEFAP. “This created significant cost savings that was used to purchase those more highly-requested items like fresh fruits and vegetables,” says FFEN Executive Director Kate Burgraff.
And even in the middle of COVID with increased need and having to secure more food, they’ve spent less money than before. “We went from $6,000 a month spending on food to about $600 and that’s with buying from grocery stores and the food bank,” says Falls Hunger Coalition Executive Director Ashley Hall. Christina adds, “When you are watching how you spend your money, then you can be more flexible and spend it on the things you want to spend it on. Which is exactly what we’re doing.”
Because Falls Hunger Coalition can only receive two deliveries a month from their food bank, it’s more difficult to stock fresh fruits and vegetables in their space. By partnering with their local grocery store where they’re able to buy food at cost, they’re able to fill that gap and provide healthy, perishable items throughout the month, while also supporting local businesses.
With all the changes the food shelf implemented, they’re now able to order a variety of items and more highly-requested foods — all in more quantities and for less money. “The clients are just overwhelmingly thankful and I think surprised. They actually like the fact that there might not be the same thing on the shelf every time. It might be something new or something different,” explains Ashley. “I just feel inherently so much better giving this cart of groceries to somebody than I did when it was all cans, nothing fresh,” says Ashley.
But that’s not the only change that the food shelf implemented. Originally housed in the basement of a county building, Falls Hunger Coalition was eyeing a space in the local community center. The switch would mean a more welcoming space connected with other community resources, and more square footage would enable them to create a shopping experience that emphasized fresh foods first. Unfortunately, the upgraded space came with an increased price tag.
But after the benefits were presented to the food shelf’s board, along with the fact that they were now saving $5,400 a month in food sourcing costs, Falls Hunger Coalition was given the green light.
FFEN layout volunteers worked on the layout for the new space, creating a shopping experience like a grocery store. The new layout emphasized highly-requested items like fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, meats, eggs, and cooking items. Additionally, the food shelf had previously used residential coolers, so FFEN used grant funding to purchase two commercial coolers that could hold more items.
In October 2020, Falls Hunger Coalition moved into their new space.
“People are proud that we’re here. They’re proud of what we’re doing,” says Ashley “It’s just been resounding positivity from everybody,” adds Christina.