Agape transitions to client-choice model

Posted 11/7/19

By Tim Schmidt Record Managing Editor When a client heads to Agape for their monthly allotment of food, no longer will they have a box already loaded with items they may or may not need. Instead, …

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Agape transitions to client-choice model


Record Managing EditorWhen a client heads to Agape for their monthly allotment of food, no longer will they have a box already loaded with items they may or may not need.Instead, their visit will be much like going to the grocery store, though the size is certainly much smaller.Agape this month has transitioned to a client-choice model, a move designed to give individuals and families a choice in what items they receive as well as reduce the amount of food that is wasted each month.At the same time, the nonprofit organization has closed its Wright City pantry location and will be serving all of its clients from the recently renovated Warrenton location.“There are a lot of benefits in what we have done,” Executive Director Michelle Bernth said. “It is a huge step forward for Agape. It brings Agape into the modern-era for food pantries. We have jumped miles ahead to where we were.”The client-choice model is considered a best practice for food pantries, Bernth explained.In the past, volunteers chose the food for clients and then boxed it up. That led to some getting two cans each of green beans, carrots and peas, food they might have been stuck with knowing they would not eat any of it.Now, individuals and families can select food that meets their needs and tastes. With an Agape volunteer guiding them through the shopping process, a family may choose to get six cans of green beans rather than an assortment that includes carrots and peas.Agape feeds 1,200 people monthly.“They get things that families like and will eat and things they know they can prepare,” Bernth said. “Not all of our clients have an oven, a microwave. The two key things about client-choice is an increase in the way clients are treated with dignity and respect and a reduction in food waste.”The transition to the new model also occurs as the organization closes its Wright City pantry and consolidates it into the Warrenton facility, located at the organization’s headquarters at 713 Powell St.For years, Agape operated a pantry in the lower level of a church facility on Bell Road. The facility was open once a week for its clients.When the new owner, SunRise Methodist Church, took over the property, Agape began looking for other locations in the city to house its operation, according to Bernth.However, a suitable new location could not be found for a variety of reasons, whether it be too small of a space or costly rent. One building that was believed to be a viable alternative did not pan out because it did not have heat or water, Bernth said.The decision to close the pantry has been questioned by some, particularly those who feel transportation might be too much of a hurdle to overcome for some of Agape’s Wright City clients.Bernth attended a Wright City Board of Aldermen meeting earlier this month and provided more details into what led to the decision. She noted that Agape officials spent months trying to determine what was the best course of action to take moving forward.A survey conducted of its clients revealed the majority of them had no problem traveling to Warrenton each month.Agape also has been working with OATS to provide transportation to its clients and is considering establishing a limited delivery program.The Warrenton location is open every weekday.“We’re really trying to meet the needs of everyone,” Bernth said.Coincidentally, Agape was awarded a $10,000 one-time grant from MTS (Mid-America Transplant Services) Foundation to assist it in the transition to the client-choice model.The funds were used to renovate the pantry area of the Warrenton facility. Agape was able to upgrade the space with new flooring, upgraded lighting and miscellaneous items such as shelving, signage and shopping carts to make the room appear more inviting and appealing for visitors.The consolidations should help Agape provide better services to its clients, according to Bernth.“The feedback has been extremely positive,” Bernth said.Agape