Happy July, everybody! The beginning of the month marks the end of my first month at Broad Street as well as the pantry’s busiest month in history. Client visits are climbing rapidly, and in June alone the pantry served over 3,000 clients, which totaled just over 900 families for the month. That’s excluding produce markets where we served an additional 500 clients in just two days. When you compare those totals to the 2013 average of 2,200 clients served per month, you start to get a picture of the staggering rise in demand many pantries across the county are facing. While most “businesses” would be thrilled to see a 50% increase in such a short time, the numbers have the opposite affect when you’re providing what are supposed to be emergency, short-term provisions.
July also marks the launch of our nutrition education initiatives and classes at the pantry. Two produce markets will act a mini-health fairs that offer quick and interactive health lessons that culminate in a full-scale cooking and nutrition class at the end of the month. Honestly, I am a little nervous to pilot the fledgling program. I am a detailed-oriented, thoughtful planner and, I’ll admit, a bit of worry-wart. My instinct is to continue to shape and incubate the program indefinitely until I’ve imagined and prepped for every possible scenario, but the statistics were seeing tell me that now is not the time for obsessive perfectionism. My pre-program surveying revealed that 2/3 of our clients rely on pantries as a food source on a regular basis, and the resulting limited access to fresh foods is causing major health consequences: almost 70% of our clients reported that they or someone in their household suffers from a nutrition-related illness. Over half of those clients reported an instance of diabetes, and nearly two thirds of all clients surveyed reported cases of hypertension. Clearly, there is no time for me to wait for the “perfect” answer to the growing needs of our clients. I’m sure we’ll face many bumps and hiccups in the early stages of our new program, and there is no way I will execute everything perfectly. But, I’ve learned that the worst thing I could do at this moment is let my own pride hold me back from trying to facilitate positive change in the lives of our clients. Trust me when I say there is never going to be “the right time” to start to make an impact on your community’s greatest issues. There is never going to be “a good time” to get involved in the business of social change. Arm yourself the best you can, and start fighting. If you are determined to keep learning and responding to those around you, you’re moving in the right direction. Keep moving.