Usually, when you see a packed parking lot, dozens of shopping carts, and bustling aisles — you might expect to find a sale at the mall. But this scene is just a typical morning on our Agency Shopping Floor all year round, rain or shine.
The shopping floor is the area of the Food Bank where local food pantries, soup kitchens and meal programs we work with — called our partner agencies — come to pick up food to distribute to the community.
“Whenever you see a food distribution in your neighborhood, that food pantry probably got that food from right here,” says Torrence, warehouse stock associate at ACCFB. “You’ve known about the shopping floor, you just didn’t realize it.”
For our team, the day starts at 6:30 a.m. by setting up the floor and taking inventory, and by making sure all the shelves are stocked with a variety of foods. Every day our team has different items to stock and keep track of, including bread, cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables, and sometimes non-food items like toilet paper and personal hygiene products.
“I don’t want anyone to come in and see empty spaces,” Torrence says. “Agencies aren’t coming here for a hand-out. I always want this to be as stocked as a real shopping floor.”
Partner agencies begin arriving 30 minutes later. Often, volunteers from agencies pack their personal cars to the brim with boxes of food and bags of fresh fruit or vegetables to distribute, sometimes on the very same afternoon.
Making sure each agency has what it needs means knowing hundreds of members on a first-name basis, and knowing how to meet each agencies’ preferences. For example, one agency’s clients especially appreciate ready-to-eat oatmeal, which provides warm nourishment on cold winter mornings. When it’s available, our team always sets it aside for them.
Our team, along with our agency partners, are busy year-round to fill tables with nutritious food for children, seniors, and families who would otherwise go hungry.
When agency staff or volunteers leave the floor with their cars overflowing, “It’s gratifying to know people are going to have something good to eat,” says LaWonda, ACCFB distribution coordinator.
“We’re serving agencies, and agencies are serving the community,” says Torrence, who previously worked at a non-profit that supported adults with disabilities, many of whom relied on food from the Food Bank. “It’s like a big circle. We’ll be here when they come back.”