A new kind of food pantry is coming to the east side this summer, with vegetable deliveries made directly to low-income apartment doors.
“This model of having a static location with limited hours where people have to come during the day to get food isn’t the best way to get food to people who need it,” food advocate Joe Mingle said. “In the food movement, we’re always a little behind the wave of where contemporary culture is.”
Contemporary culture has embraced grocery delivery, so food pantries can too. This spring, Mingle is launching the Darbo Pantry Project with the city’s Neighborhood Resource Team for Darbo/ Worthington. It picks up where the Salvation Army’s food pantry left off when it closed last fall.
The new project has four components. First is to maintain canned goods and limited perishable items at 3030 Darbo Drive (in conjunction with Joining Forces for Families and the Community Action Coalition). The Eastpointe apartment complex offices would have similar items.
Produce deliveries should start in June, after the farmers’ markets start up and the Pantry Project team can begin picking up excess produce from farm stands. Community meals would also start in June, building on momentum from Carts for Community, an existing summer event in Worthington Park.
“We’re going to build on that and have a big community meal, once, or maybe more than once a month,” Mingle said. “We want to expand to other neighborhoods, like across Aberg to Carpenter-Ridgeway, over to the Truax neighborhood. We want to expand and we intend to, but it depends on our resources.”
Darbo’s pantry project already has some key partners. With Chris Brockel at FEED Kitchens on the north side, Mingle founded Healthy Food for All, which gleans produce from farms and has picked up prepared foods from companies like Epic Systems and American Family Insurance.
Last year, HFFA’s “Buy One for a Neighbor” campaign at the Northside Farmers’ Market encouraged shoppers to buy extra produce for food pantries. (Mingle is careful to note that the Darbo Pantry Project is separate from Healthy Food for All, which tries to “stay in its lane.”)
To start, Mingle hopes 50 Darbo/Worthington families take veggie deliveries. The project already has some county support ($3,500 in the form of a PIE grant). An active GoFundMe campaign is shooting for $13,500 to get organized and hire “strong young people to help with the heavy lifting.”
Mingle said the project will make deliveries all at once in the early evening, when people are most likely to be home. They don’t want to leave vegetables sitting outside in the middle of a summer day, and most people work.
“In past years I’ve just showed up at events with crates of food and just hustled it off to people,” Mingle said. “We go knock on doors, tell people to come get it. We’re going to try to be more organized this time. We’re not going to give it to people if they don’t want it, because we don’t want to make it a burden for them.”