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Camilla Care

Recipients will have more choice at St. Matthew’s House

Vaseline 1 month ago


Pantry uses the National Best Practice food assistance model

It’s been four years since COVID started. When COVID lockdowns left people out of work in April 2020, the direct food assistance program at St. Matthew’s House went from a small food pantry visited by families a few times a week to a large-scale drive-through food distribution system.

We went from serving 300 families per month to over 4,000 families in April 2020 and the numbers continued to rise. Since April 2020, we have distributed more than 700,000 boxes of groceries, produce, dairy and proteins with weekly drive-through distributions at various locations. This model also allowed for minimal contact during COVID, as recipients could easily open their trunks and have groceries loaded by volunteers.

When Hurricane Ian struck in 2022, St. Matthew’s House responded with a tremendous response to these extreme conditions. This was made possible with the help of our food bank partners, community food drives, individual donors, the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, Community Foundation, church partners and hundreds of volunteers.

Food distribution from St. Matthew’s House will continue to some of the area’s more remote locations, LaBelle, Immokalee and the Golden Gate Senior Center. We are also prepared to return to drive-through distributions in the event of a local emergency.

However, on May 6, we will transition from multi-location food distribution to a national best practice food bank model endorsed by Feeding America. This Best Practice model is being adopted by food banks across the country.

Here’s why. Instead of presenting a box of pre-selected items, qualified recipients can choose what they receive. A recent study funded by the Morgan Stanley Foundation and conducted by Feeding America and the University of Chicago included 28 food pantries and 111 food pantries. The research overwhelmingly indicates that choice is a better way to run a food bank because people can shop for the items their household needs and wants.

This model allows qualified Collier County residents to arrive at scheduled times to choose from an array of fresh meats, fruits and vegetables, as well as staples at the St. Matthew’s House Food and Emergency Assistance Warehouse at 4535 Domestic Avenue, Naples.

Recipients are qualified based on their address, number of people in the household, frequency of their visits and a maximum dollar value per visit. This model will provide more comprehensive, personalized assistance to better serve individuals and families struggling with food insecurity.

St. Matthew’s House is also expanding the services of the Food and Emergency Assistance Warehouse by adding a Community Services Center to provide assistance with other issues food bank clients may face.

St. Matthew’s House case managers and representatives from other agencies will be available a few days a week to provide food assistance clients with additional assistance with job search, financial literacy, nutrition, menu planning and more. Clients also get access to a communal computer. This type of comprehensive service center eliminates the burden on low-income individuals to travel to multiple locations and go through a lengthy intake interview for these additional services.

We will continue to work with our many wonderful partners and volunteers to keep our 10,000 square foot warehouse stocked and ready for those in need. The public can also help by donating money and food or by volunteering.

For 35 years, St. Matthew’s House has been responding to the needs of the community while continually introducing innovative programs and services to better serve the individuals and families who turn to us for help, hope and healing.

Beginning May 6, St. Matthew’s House Food and Emergency Assistance Warehouse pantries will operate Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Individuals can pre-qualify at stmatthewshouse.org or by calling 239-774-0500, extension 307.

Steve Brooder is CEO of St. Matthew’s House.