Posted by Bernice Behar

family table choice pantryMost people who work at the JF&CS Headquarters in Waltham can't help but notice that for two days each month, JF&CS Family Table runs the Family Table Choice Pantry, a new food distribution model. When we researched this new model and carefully planned its roll out, we imagined certain outcomes: we knew that we could serve more clients; we projected that we could be more efficient with our resources; and we firmly believed that our clients would feel more empowered and dignified in a system that gave them freedom to choose their own groceries rather than picking up a pre-packed bag at a designated time.

All of these outcomes have been born out, and for that we feel gratified. But what we had not anticipated, at least in magnitude, is the way the Family Table Choice Pantry has deepened and enriched our relationships with our clients. At a recent distribution, I watched Vera Moshkevich, Russian Translator, take one older client aside and show her a better way to bend and lift her bags when she noticed that the client seemed to be showing some back discomfort. I watched as Renee Albert, Case Manager, sat and had a quiet conversation with a woman who had accompanied her daughter-in-law, a Choice Pantry client. Renee learned that the older woman herself was in desperate need of food, and we were able to pack emergency groceries for her as well. I listen every month as our volunteers trade recipe tips with our clients and each other, and I marvel at the power of a system that brings everyone into conversation about good food, healthy eating, and the challenges of feeding our families – topics that unite us regardless of our economic status.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Family Table Choice Pantry is connecting us with our clients in a way that is far richer than before. Our clients tell us how much they love coming to the Choice Pantry and, as a team, we feel energized by the positive atmosphere. Of all the outcomes that were unanticipated, this is certainly the best we could have hoped for.

bernice beharBernice Behar is the Program Manager for Family Table. Prior to joining JF&CS in early 2010, she spent more than twenty years working in the financial industry as an investment manager. In recent years, she undertook several leadership positions at her synagogue, which inspired her commitment to Jewish communal work.