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Opportunities for Food Choice a Cause for Celebration at Barb Food Mart

As the rainbow-colored tissue paper confetti floated around their heads and sprinkled the towers of empty cardboard boxes around them, the Tuesday morning volunteer crew at Barb Food Mart chorused a cheery “Whoo-hoo!” They’d just packed the 10,000th online order set for distribution on Thursday night. Their reason for celebrating? Choice.

At Barb Food Mart, food choice is very important. Each time a family orders online means one more opportunity for families to choose the food they need. Online ordering at Barb Food Mart began in July of 2020. We started small, taking about 30 orders a week while we learned and perfected our ordering process. At that time the rest of the families received pre-packed mixed boxes of shelf-stable pantry items. Over the past 20 months we have slowly worked our way up to the ability to receive and pack about 220 orders each week. Most recently we have stopped pre-packing mixed boxes and started rolling out shelves for families to shop from in an open-air market style pantry.

Online orders are a reliable benchmark for tally, but the opportunity for food choice doesn’t stop there.

When a DeKalb School District 428 family arrives at the pantry during our Thursday night distribution, they are greeted by a volunteer who will take their fresh produce order. Families may choose what they will use from an ever-changing list of fresh produce options. This may mean one or two fresh produce items, or maybe everything on the list will work for a family. Families also have the opportunity to choose milk or no milk; frozen options including meat, no pork, and vegetarian choices.

Offering choice gives families the opportunity to get the food they need while also decreasing food waste and saving money. We recently purchased fresh strawberries to add to our produce choice with the money we saved simply by asking families if they could use milk.

Thank you to all of our volunteers who work hard all week to stock and pack orders so they are ready for distribution on Thursday nights. Our committed team of over 50 volunteers who staff 4 volunteer shifts throughout the week allow us to continue our work in the DeKalb community. To learn more about how to get food, donate, or volunteer, visit our homepage at

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