New murals create a welcoming environment for select model food banks

Nearly a year ago, North Valley Food Bank completed a renovation and opened a select model pantry that resembles a regular grocery store.

Since the transformation was completed, the opportunities for the food bank to connect with customers and provide more community outreach and programming have increased significantly. We’ve added opportunities throughout the year for food education programs, community dinners, cooking classes, meal kits, and more.

None of these additions would have been possible without completing a remodel that freed up space for the grocery store concept, created a commercial kitchen and expanded the food storage area.

NVFB Operations Director Lauren Jarrold said: “In this model, there is more community and connection as opposed to the box model where someone crosses the line for about five minutes.”

A choice model invites customers to spend more time at the food bank. This is great for creating a sense of community, he says, Jarrold. On top of that, NVFB staff wanted to make the space more inviting to people as soon as they entered the building. To do this, the food bank partnered with her KALICO art center in Kalispell to run a contest that gave one artist the chance to paint a mural inside the North Valley Food Bank.

Bozeman-based artist Alyssa Shaw, owner of Hiking Bird Creative, won the competition with a mural she designed that combines food and community ideas. She said the competition required the mural to be food related, but NVFB’s mission was also to discourage people from coming to food banks.

“There’s no one particular type of person that walks into a food bank. We all have times when we’re rich and times when we need a helping hand — a helping hand is stuck in my head,” Shaw said. Told.

Shaw added that she chose bright colors and fun designs that focus on community and bring joy to the space.

“I hope it will be very welcoming…” she said of what she hopes to offer the community.

Food bank customers, volunteers and staff are thrilled with the new additions to brighten up the space.

“It’s a beautiful mural and it added what we wanted: a splash of color and personality,” says Jarrold. “The designs she chose fit perfectly with the vision we had for food and community.”

Jarrold explained that when he was researching the Choice Model concept, he saw the Missoula Food Bank, whose walls were covered in bright paint colors, and thought something similar would help them with their mission. did.

“We felt we could make it a more welcoming community space…” Jarrold said. I wanted to intentionally change the space to make it feel comfortable, so I thought I could contribute to that by adding some color and adding some fun murals.”

Former NVFB executive director Jessy Lee began exploring the concept of choice models in 2019, and current executive director Sophie Albert has done it with all of the food bank staff. The whole process took about 3 years.

According to Jarrold, research shows pantries of choice provide customers with a more dignified experience while reducing food waste. The selection model works like a grocery store. Customers can choose the items and quantities they want for their particular household, rather than getting a box of food they don’t want or need.

The food bank has also decided not to place a limit on the number of items customers can choose from, and surprisingly, there have been no issues with items being out of stock.

“Overall, it’s been very well received by our customers,” says Jarrold. “Our staff love it, too. The grocery store is so much fun, it’s like a community connection, and you get to know your customers better.”

The store also provides space for more food education programs. For example, when people are shopping, staff will hand out samples of meals made with ingredients that customers can pick up in the store. Plus, NVFB Program Coordinator Kristen Schepker creates an ingenious yet simple Meal Her Kit that will fly off the shelves.

“This store gave us a way to educate about food, and this is just the beginning for us,” said Jarrold. “We’re really going to explore that program and grow it further into what our customers want.”

THE FOOD bank is moving more food every month as it expands its program. In July, it served more than 1,500 households, marking the highest number of pantry visits in its 45-year history and on track to beat it again in August. This equates to serving more than 3,500 of his people in the community.

Over the past three weeks, according to Jarrold, NVFB has seen a more than 22% increase in household visits.

In addition to grocery stores, NVFB also offers drive-thru pickup on Thursdays, a delivery program for individuals unable to get home, and a large mobile pantry at Trego every Friday. Initially he served 20 households, but today the mobile pantry has expanded to more than 160 households.

“We’re growing incrementally, but practically all services are growing,” says Jarrold.

With new choice model pantries, commercial kitchens, expanded refrigeration facilities, and a beautiful mural welcoming all community members, North Valley Food Bank hopes to continue expanding as an important resource to Whitefish and the surrounding community. I’m in. rise.




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