I-Care’s food pantry may serve those who need food to put on their tables, but it does so with respect to client needs. “Client choice” recognizes that patrons know their own dietary needs and restrictions as well as what foods they may already have at home. So, rather than prepare a standard food box in which everyone gets the same items, client choice allows those who visit the pantry to choose what they need.
The pantry operates out of a cramped room at Highland Park United Methodist Church. Still, Manager Lavine Wall says, foods are stacked in sections to make it easier for clients to choose proteins, vegetables and other foods. There are even gluten free and low sodium sections. In an effort to help people eat healthy, snack foods are positioned toward the back. Wall even fixes sample recipes such as red beans and rice to help clients see what meals they can prepare from items in the food pantry.
I-Care was started in 1972 by a group of pastors in southeast Topeka. With five churches now involved, the pantry serves residents south of 6th Street and East of Kansas. The pantry is open from 8:30-11:30 a.m. and two additional hours on Tuesday evenings.
The number of families served by I-Care has grown from 1,135 inn 2011 to 3,750 in 2016. Project Topeka has supported the program from its beginning.
“Project Topeka is very helpful,” says Wall. “We couldn’t do it without you and support from others.”
In addition to the churches, various community groups do collections to support I-Care.