Grace Presbyterian Church plans to expand its Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry with the introduction of a new market-style “client choice” food pantry.
Construction began in February on Table of Grace, Tuscaloosa’s first market-style food pantry. Once complete, clients will be able to select from the inventory provided by the West Alabama Food Bank, along with items donated by other groups. The new market-style concept will allow clients to exercise freedom of choice while also avoiding waste, the church said.
The table of Grace will be across the street from the church on the corner of Hargrove Road and Prince Avenue.
Construction is expected to be complete in the summer and the new food pantry is expected to open in the fall.
“At the Table of Grace we will still have the same foods that we have now, but clients will choose what they put in their bags.” said Jennifer Shepard, food pantry director.
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“We will be able to offer a greater variety to choose from, and include items that address health/diet issues. Right now, everybody receives a similar bag, and substitutions are not possible,” Shepard said.
Table of Grace will also expand the church food ministry’s goal of providing fresh produce to clients with a community cleansing program, an orchard and a community garden.
Brooke Peterson, a garden organizer, said the expansion would call for more volunteers and partnerships with other organizations in the community.
“We plan to be able to add seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables to this selection of food we grow in a garden and from a network of growing and gleaning throughout the area. We will need volunteers for food distribution on a weekly basis. We will need people to help stock and organize food. We will need gardeners and community organizers,” said Peterson.
The current Food Pantry serves about 600 to 800 people a month. Last year, the pantry gave away over 85,000 pounds of food.
Anyone who qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) and the Supplemental Security Income program also automatically qualifies to receive food from the pantry for free. Others may qualify if they meet certain income eligibility requirements. For those who don’t meet any of those requirements, the church offers emergency food bags.
“The Table of Grace reflects who we are as a church,” said Emily Altman, chairperson of the Grace’s Mission, Peace, and Justice Committee. “We are a church that feeds God’s people.”
Reach Jasmine Hollie at [email protected].
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: New market-style food pantry to open at Grace Presbyterian Church