A Healthier Pantry: The Sharing Place

It’s not uncommon for a line to form outside The Sharing Place food pantry in Lawrence Township — even when it’s 11 degrees outside. For the people waiting, this is their one opportunity to access food from The Sharing Place all month. Until recently, The Sharing Place didn’t give a lot of thought to the nutrition of the food its shoppers were accessing – food is food for someone who is hungry. But Jump IN for Healthy Kids’ Community Demonstration Project in Lawrence and the Far Eastside has changed that — changing the pantry’s layout, signage and offerings for the better.

 

A volunteer prepares the produce aisle before the Sharing Place opens
A volunteer prepares the produce aisle before the Sharing Place opens

Jump IN’s Community Demonstration Project is a program to pilot numerous strategies and interventions to address childhood obesity simultaneously in Lawrence and the Far Eastside.  Healthy food access in pantries is one intervention, which we’ve partnered with the Purdue Extension to implement. Last year, Purdue Extension Community Wellness Coordinator, Emma Craynor, approached The Sharing Place about implementing a healthy pantry plan, introducing healthy “nudges” to the pantry to encourage people to select healthier food. The plan included a redesign of food placement, so that healthy food is more prominently displayed, and a reworking of the shopping flow, so that healthier options are easier to access.  It also implemented better signage, food tastings to introduce people to healthy options they may not know about, and a nutrition and physical activity class each month that includes an exercise portion and cooking class with ingredients to make at home.

 

The Sharing Place Director Crystal Wilmot says the changes have all been positive. The produce, meat, dairy and bread are now the first things people see when they enter the pantry. She said they’ve widened their main aisle so that more people can access the produce more quickly. “It’s now laid out more like a traditional grocery store.”

 

 

 

Crystal Wilmot, director of the Sharing Place
Crystal Wilmot, director of the Sharing Place

The once monthly rule will be changing soon; families will have the opportunity to access food an additional time each month. At the second visit, The Sharing Place will restrict the food access to perishable items only: produce, meat, dairy and bread – helping those in need get healthier and stay healthier.

 

Crystal says that the most popular changes are the nutrition class and the different food tastings regularly offered. “People are glad that the fresh food is available to them. I got a woman to try jicama yesterday, and that never would have happened before.”

 

Jump IN for Healthy Kids’ work in Lawrence and the Far Eastside is only one focus area of the many-sectored approach Jump IN takes to reduce childhood obesity in Central Indiana, its core mission. Jump IN also manages programs that address childhood obesity in schools, in child care settings, in workplaces, and the quality of built environments (sidewalks, trails, bike paths, etc.).  More information about Jump IN’s programs and a comprehensive, free, online healthy resource library, visit jumpinforhealthykids.org.

 

This article is part of Jump INside, a blog series featuring stories from Jump IN for Healthy Kids, a United Way of Central Indiana partner that focuses on reducing and preventing childhood obesity in Central Indiana. See all of the stories here