God’s Pantry – Building an Airplane in the Air
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Right before COVID, a new General Programs Officers and Housing Director came on board at God’s Pantry located in Pomona, California. As the pandemic unfolded, God’s Pantry lost many of their volunteers. They found workforce development programs to partner with. They added trainees, many of whom were chronically unhoused, they added a housing program. Some trainees had legal problems, they added a legal team. Some had court mandated classes, these classes were added to the God’s Pantry curriculum. Trainees needed counseling so they added a clinician. And finally, some did not yet have their high school diplomas, so the organization added this pathway of education to their services. During this time, food insecurity became the most prominent and critical issue to address. What happened was that God’s Pantry grew to address all of these issues facing their trainees in a holistic way, while prioritizing those members of their community who needed supportive services and help the most. One immediate area in the future with a focus is to look at food bank/food pantry as a social enterprise business. In this session, participants will learn the pros and cons of adding a pantry to your organizations, explore the benefits and pitfalls God's Pantry has experienced, and identify if starting a food pantry at your organization is right for you. You will also learn about how God’s Pantry plans to shape their food bank venture into a social enterprise business alongside a restaurant or café they are working to develop and launch.