Back when I started as Pantry Director, I thought it would be like other retail jobs I had worked – provide good customer service and maintain adequate inventory. Those are the basics but I’ve learned a few more things.


1. People (1 in 5 here in Ohio) are hungry because they do not have enough food.

Why don’t they have enough food? Usually it is because they don’t have enough money left to buy food after paying for housing, transportation, and the child care they need to work.  Most of our shoppers are not homeless or without resources – they just don’t have enough to make ends meet.


2. Food charity is just a band-aid.

It’s a very important band-aid but eliminating hunger will only come with policy change, thriving wages, and racial and economic justice. That’s why we advocate for a strong safety net and racial equity.


3. People who come to a food pantry are already having a bad day.

No one ever dreamed of growing up and relying on food pantries to make ends meet.  But people do what they can to get by and we support them through kind words and friendly smiles.


4. Good intentions are not enough.

Making decisions based on what we think is best for the people we support, doesn’t take their opinions and needs into account.  Getting input from our shoppers has been challenging because the pandemic has limited interaction but our shoppers should have a voice.


5. Success cannot be measured by numbers alone.

The number of families we support while staying on budget is important but so are:

  • Being a reliable resource for those in the community who need food
  • Providing the healthiest food available
  • Partnering with other organizations to provide additional support
  • Being a place where all voices are heard and all feel welcome and value


6. Charity and justice are very different things.

Charity operates from the mindset that if people are hungry, they will eat anything. Justice means that people should have access to nutritious, culturally appropriate food. As the Pantry has moved from emergency food to being a staple provider, justice has become more important.


7. Community is important in all we do.

I cannot (and do not) do this all alone. Volunteers, partners, donors, staff, and neighbors form a community that supports one another by listening, smiling, and encouraging each other. The “thank you and have a blessed day” that comes from our shoppers is just as important as the food we provide.


While it would be nice to think I’ve learned it all, that’s probably not true. I am grateful to my job and this community for moving me more toward a justice mindset – and toward being a better neighbor.


We are currently in need of more volunteers. Volunteer opportunities are available at the Broad Street Food Pantry between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Monday-Friday. Sign up to help with curbside delivery or parking lot hospitality.

-Written by Kathy Kelly-Long, Broad Street Food Pantry Director

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  1. Rosemary Tolliver May 11, 2022 at 9:44 am - Reply

    We admire the work you lead, Kathy. The difference between charity and justice is so important!

  2. Cynthia Hunt May 11, 2022 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Beautifully written Kathy — and think the charity/justice point is a key conclusion! Thank you for your leadership and heart — you and your staff/volunteers do an amazing job!

  3. Connie Bodiker May 11, 2022 at 10:37 am - Reply

    Kathy, It has been a joy working with you at the pantry during your leadership. Your compassion, integrity to each person served, and innovative creativity to meet the ever-changing needs of our shoppers are incredible. I truly believe that you are one of our community’s heroes!

  4. Brent Alan Burington May 11, 2022 at 11:34 am - Reply

    Kathy, perfectly stated. Thank you for all that you do, and all that everyone involved does.

  5. Beth Hawthorne May 11, 2022 at 11:47 am - Reply

    Kathy, Thanks for your good work and your important words in this blog. You have voiced so many important ideas as we all work for justice for all people.

  6. Mark Gallant May 11, 2022 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    A few years ago a read a book published by the Ford Foundation (online only) called “From Generosity to Justice”. It’s a short book and, if you can still find it, I’d recommend it. Here are a few of my favorite quotes that I saved. I think they are so appropriate for Kathy’s remarks.

    Charity is writing a check for a cause you believe in. Justice goes beyond individuals, its investing time, resources, knowledge and networks to change the root causes that create the need for charity in the first place.

    Ask these questions: Whom can we include and learn from, support and lift up? What can we share based on what we’ve learned? How can we work together to achieve transformation?

    We are all put ahead or behind by the circumstances of our birth.

    Charity assumes a relation of power that does not shift. Justice is giving more people the agency to define and make choices in their own lives.

    When we try to find other people’s solutions, we inevitably cause new problems. Our intent and our impact are simply misaligned. That’s why we have to be mindful to engage with the community. That’s the difference between approaching philanthropy from a charity mindset and approaching it with a justice mindset.

    Charity and justice must go hand in hand, much the way a doctor treats the symptoms as well as the disease. We must address both immediate and systemic issues. It is easy to let the immediate distract from the underlying.

  7. Carol Freeland May 11, 2022 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this Kathy, I learned so much in my time there and you provided the key leadership for that to happen.

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