Pine Island Sharing Shelves has been partnering with FFEN for several years, on everything from grant writing support to equipment needs. This food shelf in Pine Island, MN is fortunate to have a part-time paid food shelf coordinator to lead their operation. Over the past year, their long time leader transitioned from the paid position to a supporting volunteer, and the food shelf recruited and hired a new coordinator from the community to continue leading their food response. As part of the transition, the previous leader connected the new coordinator with FFEN to be a continued resource for the food shelf.
As the new food shelf coordinator, Susanna, settled into her role, FFEN provided as needed assistance in navigating the hunger relief system and served as a sounding board for layout options in their new food shelf location anticipated to open in 2021. When Susanna took over, the food shelf was still providing food pre-packed with input from a shopping list because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to shifting to pre-pack during COVID-19, Pine Island Sharing Shelves had used a shopping model that offered clients a number of points for their shopping experience. Since Susanna was newer to the hunger relief sector, she was invited to join a test run in early June of the new FFEN Essentials education session: Welcome to Hunger Relief that was being rolled out.
As part of the Welcome to Hunger Relief session, conversations and simulations focus on opportunities to improve the client experience at a food shelf - by increasing choice, using bright and clear signage as well as shifting choice offerings from “choice by pounds/points/items” (i.e. Peanut Butter is one choice) to “choice by category” (i.e. Peanut Butter as one offering within a broader Protein category). A simulated shopping experience helps food shelf leaders to consider how different systems might be more or less confusing for a person shopping at a food shelf.
Shortly after Susanna attended the session, Pine Island Sharing Shelves re-opened for in-person shopping in their space. Inspired from the continued conversation and experience during the Welcome to Hunger Relief session, the Pine Island team shifted their distribution model to choice by category, receiving rave reviews from their shoppers about the ease of this new system. In a visit to the food shelf later in June, FFEN staff were thrilled to see that the food shelf was now set up in this way instead of by points! Susanna and her fellow leader, Tracy, shared that reopening was the perfect time to try out their learnings from the training.
Pine Island Sharing Shelves will continue to refine their new food distribution model as they move into their new location at the end of August. Their space is painted brightly and ready to welcome families for food resources. FFEN truly appreciates continued opportunities to support food shelves, like Pine Island Sharing Shelves as they continue to evolve and improve their services to the community.