SPACE-TIME AND THE PANTRY - CHANGING OUR POST PANDEMIC DISTRIBUTION MODEL
Our current distribution model - pre-packed bags handed out as quickly as possible - was pretty much the only option available during the height of the pandemic. While we all should be immensely proud of what we have accomplished in the last year or more, this model is not ideal for many reasons.
To list just a few of those reasons, clients get virtually no choice of the food they receive, the quantity is not adjusted for family size, and with distribution times compressed into two very narrow windows each week, many people in the communities we serve have great difficulty in getting to the Pantry for the food they need.
In the short and medium term, I do not think it is realistic to return to our pre-pandemic "In Pantry Choice" model - the client numbers are still too high. But it is not clear to me that such a return should necessarily be our goal. Even though that model addressed some of the shortcomings of what we currently are doing, it did not address them all.
The fact is, we are faced with a fundamental problem at the Pantry: the building is very small. Our 2019 renovation was designed, in part, to optimize storage and increase the "throughput" of clients during distributions. While it went a long way towards improving the situation, and certainly made the Pantry a much more inviting space, we still faced bottlenecks as clients moved through the aisles. This should hardly be surprising - giving clients a choice means, well, they have to choose. Choosing takes time, as anyone who has seen me staring into the freezers at Trader Joe's will know. And forcing people to choose quickly removes any real choice.
OK Einstein, you say, all that is kinda obvious. What is your solution? And what about that tv show?
Well, here's the thing. The tv show - Dr. Who - featured a time machine called a Tardis. The Tardis (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) was in the form of a Police Box, but that is not relevant here. Nor is the fact that it was a time machine - that's just silly childish nonsense, obviously (did I mention Dr. Who was a kid's show?). No, for our purposes, the interesting feature of the Tardis was that it was far bigger on the inside than its external dimensions!
If you have no idea what I'm on about here, and do not have time to follow the links, don't worry. The important thing is that, if we can get hold of the spatial technology of the Tardis, we can apply it to the Pantry and all our problems will be solved!
So that's Plan A. I admit it has drawbacks, not the least being that Dr. Who - spoiler alert - is not real. So I have a few alternative plans.
Plan B is the more ploddingly obvious: move to somewhere with more space. I'm not ruling that out, but we did just spend an awful lot of money on the renovation, and space generally does not come cheap. Also, I like our current building, and it is a great location.
Plan C, the point of this entire waffle, returns us to Dr. Who. It relies on the Tardis-inspired insight that, in many circumstances, time and space are interchangeable commodities. In other words, the Pantry is plenty big enough to accommodate all of our clients and many more besides. Just not at the same time.
By now, I'm sure the more sharp-witted of you will see where all this is going. Why don't we just open for longer hours? It would solve most, if not all, our problems. And it would allow for more opportunities to serve our clients and potential clients better.
I have other ideas, but this article as usual has gotten too long and you still need to do the survey. Because, despite the advantages of trying a new model, any change relies on the support of you, my fellow volunteers. So, before going any further down this road, let me know what you think.