In 2021, Illinois SNAP-Ed in Chicago worked with various food pantries to move to client choice operations and encourage healthier choices.
Traditional food pantry styles may limit what people can choose to bring home. This can lead to food waste. However, when client choice is enacted, some healthy, but less-familiar food options may be left behind if clients do not know how to prepare them at home.
- Our Lady of Guadalupe Food Pantry: Illinois SNAP-Ed provided tools and materials for setting up a healthy client choice pantry. Client choice is a style of pantry that gives the client control over what foods they will take home to their families. Some non-dairy items like almond milk are now provided. Frozen items like meats are stored in a freezer then put out for client choice. Shelf-stable items are displayed on an open, rolling cart to get them in and out of the pantry easily. SNAP-Ed also provided colorful signage in the pantry to promote the healthy options.
- Sheldon Heights Food Pantry: Illinois SNAP-Ed helped the Sheldon Heights pantry to adopt the Supporting Wellness at Pantries (SWAP) system. SWAP is a system for ranking nutritious healthy foods to stock, label, and promote foods at the pantry.
The food pantry supports the health and well-being of their community by increasing the number of healthy foods in the pantry. SNAP-Ed provides further support with nutrition education and recipes for pantry clients.
"The [clients] are now using more of the garbanzo beans because we have been providing the recipe to make hummus," stated Denetria Adams, Illinois SNAP-Ed team member.
Illinois SNAP-Ed staff continue to work with pantries and communities to improve the nutritional health of limited resource families.