By Steve Powell
MARYSVILLE – In an effort to lessen the stigma of going to the Marysville Food Bank this week it changed to a Grocery Store Model.
“It will open the door to those in need who’ve been reluctant to seek help due to the traditional way of distributing food,” director Dell Deierling says in a newsletter. With the new process, customers browse and select the food they want, although there are still limits depending on the size of the family. Previously they were guided through the store by volunteers.
Many constraints have been removed, bringing “more dignity to our clients,” Deierling said.
He added this week: “It’s empowering. They get to make their own decisions. It’s closer to what a grocery store experience is.”
Feedback has been mostly positive, as customer wait times are less and with fewer people and wider aisles shopping can be done quicker.
Deierling said people are using the food bank 7.2% this year more because they can come four times a month, instead of three.
“It’s a growing sector,” he said, adding he wished that wasn’t the case. One day, “I’d love to be without a job.”
Also, even though housing in Marysville is cheaper than in communities to the south, “It’s still not affordable” for many, Deierling said.
The new process does not require as many volunteers, something the food bank has always needed. But he said he still will try to fit in high school and college students who need community service hours.
One concern volunteers had was that they would no longer be able to connect with clients. But at least the first few days that hadn’t been the case as station managers who watch over what’s going on in different areas were constantly chatting with customers.
“Volunteers’ interaction and human contact is still there,” Deierling said.
Volunteer Ty Wernet said clients still can ask for an escort, and some do.
“They’re used to being helped,” he said. “There are a lot of choices out there. It can be overwhelming.”
He added the new model is not “set in stone,” and they will continually be looking at ways to improve it.
Deierling said they had looked at expanding the store, but when studied by a consultant they were told it would be better to have more vertical storage to add space on the floor. “Make better use of the space we have,” Deierling said. Deierling said extra precautions are being taken due to the coronavirus. “Volunteers are handling the produce,” he said, adding, “For your own protection always wash produce.”
Wernet said grocery carts are wiped down after every use. “Everything that’s touched,” he said.
Deierling said if someone isn’t feeling well let them know, and someone will shop for you and bring the groceries to your car.
Wernet said the food bank is open 9-11 a.m. Mondays and Fridays, and 3-6 p.m. Tuesdays. They try to keep things moving with 15 shoppers at a time.
“You don’t have to be in line forever,” volunteer Goldie Fox said. “There’s a lot of food, options and room.”