On a recent trip to the Midwest I had the opportunity to visit several food pantries in Illinois and Michigan. I had not looked forward to making the trip, travelling alone didn’t really appeal to me. But I came back excited and energized.
The large Loaves & Fishes in Naperville, IL, just outside Chicago, was new and shining – housed in a large building with lots of space to grow. It was refreshing to talk with folks who are just starting down the path we at Loaves & Fishes in Charlotte have been on for 36 years.
The Kalamazoo, MI Loaves & Fishes felt so much like home – a network of 26 food pantries started and sustained by the faith community, and operated by hundreds of volunteers with a very small paid staff. I enjoyed visiting several of their pantries, meeting dedicated volunteers who take great pride in their work, and chatting with clients as they picked up their food.
I am excited about putting some of the “best practices” I observed into action here in Charlotte. And also about the many ways these other organizations gained ideas and enthusiasm for using some of our operation procedures to their benefit. Although pantry programs have no national organization to connect us, it is always a thrill to see a “Loaves & Fishes” sign in another city. And a reminder of how much we have in common with people all over this great country.