Over the last year, FFEN has been working with New Creation Baptist Church (NCBC) Food Shelf in South Minneapolis to redesign the food shelf’s space for an improved shopping experience for its shoppers. While this initial project was identified prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the work evolved to not just improving the shopping experience, but to also ensure additional safety precautions could be in place for indoor shopping.
NCBC Food Shelf, led by Pastor Daniel McKizzie, has been serving its South Minneapolis community since 2011. It is open the first four Saturdays each month, making it one of the few South Minneapolis food distributions that consistently offers weekend hours. NCBC Food Shelf initially engaged with FFEN in early 2019 and developed a plan to incorporate changes to speed up the shopping process by creating a more open layout for clients. Following the success of that first engagement, NCBC Food Shelf reconnected with FFEN in mid-2020. Like many food shelves during the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, NCBC Food Shelf shifted to a pre-packed model in order to minimize social contact. During that time, the food shelf saw the need in the community increase significantly and wanted to find ways to safely have their shoppers back in the building to shop for their own food. Being forced to temporarily close for in-person shopping actually allowed NCBC to reimagine, expand, and reorganize its food shelf space.
After initial discussions between Pastor Daniel and FFEN staff, FFEN layout design volunteer Tim Follett-Dion joined the project to look into expanding the food shelf space. The new expanded footprint would more than double the size of the food shelf area, allowing the necessary space for clients to safely shop on their own with carts with space to socially distance. Also included in the project were plans for new signage to provide shoppers with a clear overview of choices and processes. With FFEN providing needed funding and technical support, work began in November 2020 to expand and remodel the food shelf space, with an eye towards a spring 2021 resumption of in-person shopping. The project involved an investment of over $15,000 (with funding partially provided by the DHS-OEO, TEFAP Program), and over 25 hours of FFEN staff and volunteer time.
Since NCBC Food Shelf reopened for in-person shopping in July of 2021, the results have been overwhelmingly positive. After opening the new food shelf, 3.5 times as many individuals are being served per month with a 170% increase in total pounds of food distributed! NCBC Food Shelf has been able to meet this increased demand, all while keeping their cost per individual served below $1 and ensuring that they have a sustainable food budget as they go forward. Beyond the numbers, the remodeled space has elicited positive responses from both shoppers and the broader community. NCBC Food Shelf leadership shared that the investment in expanding and remodeling the space has shifted the perception of its work from simply a “church basement food shelf” to a stable, community food resource.