Food Pantry Finds the Right Recipe


Beans and cabbage received mixed reviews at Monument Crisis Center, a California food pantry and family resource center.

After administering hundreds of Listen4Good surveys to participants in its food distribution program, organization staff realized that they hadn’t received the definitive, unanimous feedback they expected. Some clients loved receiving cabbage and beans every month, while others were not so thrilled.

The mixed feedback set some creative responses in motion.

Pantry staff picked a few dozen food items that regularly show up in clients’ monthly food boxes but that had received low survey ratings and did some research. From that, they produced handouts with USDA nutrition information about the food and clever and easy recipes in both English and Spanish, displaying them on colorful magazine racks in the pantry waiting area.

“It was important to us to create a resource for our clients that would be both accessible and practical,” says Alexa Gambero, pantry services coordinator.

Monument also tweaked its L4G surveys to elicit more actionable responses. For example, it learned from focus groups that instead of asking clients what their favorite items are, it made more sense to ask them to rate items from least to most useful. The organization then took care to ensure that translations — surveys are administered in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese — clearly conveyed the differences between the words “favorite” and “useful” in this context.

To respond to food preferences mentioned on surveys and in focus groups, Monument is looking for ways to procure and afford specialty items, like cheeses and berries, to offer as what it will call a Client Item of the Month. And it continues to work to better familiarize clients with foods considered useful because they are healthful or easy to prepare.

One way to get the word out: Monument’s after-school program coordinator uses the newly available recipes to make meals for students, hoping they might introduce the recipes to their families at home.

Feedback started in the pantry, but encouraged by the process and the results, Monument now also surveys participants in its programs for youths and seniors.

“We have always been a client-centered organization,” says executive director Sandra Scherer. “The opportunity to survey multiple programs has encouraged our staff to be even more feedback-focused than ever, and we’ve seen our clients respond positively to the feedback process because they know they’re being heard.”