What’s on your shopping list? It’s probably staple items to make your favorite meals and other snacks, household paper products, pet food, soaps, and other personal care items. We distribute all those items and more through 17,500 visits to our food programs every year.
We get food three ways
Moving 1,450,000 pounds of food and other items through our SuperShelf every year requires thoughtful coordination and managing the unexpected. Our inventory is tied directly to food banks, retailers, and donations.
According to Caleb Mingus, program manager, “We always have a variety of food in stock – dairy, bulk produce (like seasonal items and root vegetables), canned fruits and veggies, rice, beans, and bread. We’re committed to SuperShelf inventory standards.” We reliably get these items through food bank partners, Second Harvest Heartland and The Food Group at a reduced cost.
Valley Outreach to the (food) rescue
We also pick up food from local grocery stores. When grocers receive new inventory, food programs can “rescue” the food the retailer is moving out of their store. These items often include packaged produce, dairy, deli, meat, and bakery items. It helps us improve the variety of the selection available to our shoppers. Caleb points out, “Sometimes we don’t have items and it’s not because we are out, it’s because we didn’t have them in the first place.” Due to the variability of food rescue items – many of which are seasonal – we don’t always know what we’re getting or when we’ll get it again. “We encourage people to take what they need but have guidelines for items that are more difficult to keep in stock or we may have a limited quantity. People are asked to only take up to a certain amount for those items.”
Donors help fill the gaps
Donors are an important part of our food inventory management. “Valley Outreach relies on donations from the community to help us fill in the gaps for items that are difficult to get through food banks and retail rescue – like condiments, seasonings, diapers, and personal hygiene products,” says Jaimie Johnson, food program coordinator.” Dedicated volunteers look at every single item we receive to ensure it meets food safety guidelines. Only donate items that you would give to your friends and families. “Please know, we don’t take open items or food that has long passed its expiration date due to safety reasons – we invite you to compost or toss those items.”
Keeping shelves stocked
In April, we introduced shopping by appointment. Feedback from our shoppers and volunteers has been positive – we’ve reduced wait times and improved our inventory management – both benefit our shoppers. “We can steadily refill shelves during our service hours,” says Julie Vang, program assistant. “One important thing, I want people to know, is we don’t hold any donated food back in our inventory. We try to get donations out to shoppers as soon as we can after checking them for safety.”
Thanks to the team at Valley Outreach carefully managing our SuperShelf inventory, anytime is a good time to shop here.
Learn more about our food bank partners: