There are a few food pantries in the Richmond area that provide life assistance, other than a food aid. Many resource centers strive to provide people with all the opportunities they need to lead a better lifestyle. Example of other services include job hunting assistance, utility bill assistance, and educational assistance. It takes a lot of time and effort to create and operate all these different types of classes, and even harder to maintain these opportunities when very few people actually take advantage of them.
Although low-income individuals need more help than with just food, they tend to neglect their other helpful options. This could be for a variety of reasons. They could not have enough time to attend cooking classes and computer skill classes. It is possible they don’t have the proper information on when and where the classes are held. Or maybe they are intimidated by all the options they have to better their lives. No matter what the reason is, there are ways that food pantries and resource centers can improve the turnout they have for these types of activities and classes.
Many studies have discussed the positive impact that cooking and nutrition classes have on food pantry clients, however, our experience) no one actually came to cooking classes, even when they were taught on items in the bags that clients were receiving.
One way to encourage food pantry users to participate in this free service, food pantries could train and employ a community member to conduct the food preparation classes. In order to combat the intimidation some clients feel towards attending food preparation classes, placing a familiar guide who can readily relate with users could prove successful. This would also promote a sense of community which appears to be key in the mission of Richmond food pantries.
In order to increase attendance, incentivizing attendance to these classes will greatly improve the turn out. Examples include giving out a free cookbook, additional food to supplement the food pantry bag with all the ingredients to make the meal, or providing cooking equipment.
For starters, resource centers can use incentive to get individuals to take their nutrition cooking classes. In order to get the most out of your meals, it is important to know how to prepare the food that is being given to you. As an incentive food pantries can offer their food distributions after individuals sit through a 15 minute cooking class. At the end of the class, they will receive their bag of food that includes the ingredients that they would have just learned how to cook. By doing this, food pantry users will not only be given the food they are in need of, but will be educated on how best to use it.
Another way to get individuals to utilize offered classes would be to create a point system. For each class that an individual attends, they will earn a point. At the end of each month their points will be tallied and if they meet a specific amount of points they will win a prize. The prize can be anything from an extra bag of food on distribution day to a giftcard to a local grocery store. This way individuals will be motivated to attend classes so that they can have a chance at winning the prize.
Although incentive tactics may sound elementary, they are a great way to get people motivated. Many individuals who attend food pantry and resource centers, lack motivation. Often times, they have been offered opportunities to better their lives, but they simply do not have the drive to take advantage of these opportunities. By offering them incentives you are allowing them to feel a sense of urgency to take part in classes that will help them in the long run.