In an effort to ease the embarrassment clients sometimes experience about receiving assistance, Yad Ezra kosher food pantry has introduced a drive-up door at its Berkley warehouse where they can receive groceries away from prying eyes.
The new option is designed to preserve clients' dignity and could be the first of its kind in the state, said Lea Luger, who serves as executive director of the food pantry.
"We've always grappled with the fact there are people who won't come to us because they're just too embarrassed and we thought, what can we do to make it easier," she said.
The food pantry – which assists Jewish residents of Berkley, Huntington Woods, Oak Park and surrounding areas – relies on approximately two dozen volunteers during each serving session, Luger said. Because the Jewish community in the area is small, the chance of a client running into someone they know is high, she said.
So, the food pantry installed a door at its Berkley warehouse where clients can collect their groceries between 4 and 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays when only Yad Ezra staff members are present, Luger said. When a client's vehicle travels over a hose outside the building, a bell inside is triggered, alerting warehouse manager David Jaffee someone is there for a pickup, she said.
"We're very sensitive to our clients," Jaffee said. "We take their situation very seriously."
The arrangement, which is similar to the setup at a full-service gas station, cost Yad Ezra only $300 to install, a drop in the bucket in relation to the nonprofit's $1.5 million annual budget, Luger said.
Clients using the service will receive a standard package of perishable and nonperishable items based on their family's size, she said. Recipients are required to go through an application process and be at 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines or below, as is typical for most Jewish relief agencies, according to Luger.
A family of four making $22,700 meets United States poverty guidelines, while the standard at Yad Ezra is $44,000, Luger said.
There are other food pantries that have drive-up doors for deliveries, but Luger said she could not locate another that offers the service to provide discretion for clients. She added that food pantires serve individuals, while food banks serve food pantries and soup kitchens.
Officials at the Food Bank Council of Michigan and the Michigan League for Human Services, which serves low-income residents throughout the state, also said they had not heard of a similar service.
"It's really an interesting concept," MLHS Communications Director Judy Putnam said.
"It speaks to maintaining the clients' dignity," Luger said. "You never know what side of the shopping cart you're going to be on. (The recession of) 2008 taught us that."
Call Yad Ezra at 248-548-3663 for more information about receiving assistance or to volunteer.