About Bebashi FoodFirst Pantry
Bebashi, which stands for Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues, is a nonprofit organization that has been in Philadelphia since 1985. Their FoodFirst Pantry is open five days a week to members of the community who are economically challenged. In December 2021, Bebashi opened a community fridge to provide their neighbors with 24/7 access to food and sanitation needs, such as face masks, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes. They also provide many other services aside from the FoodFirst Pantry, including access to culturally sensitive high-quality healthcare, HIV/AIDS services, health education, and social services.
PA Healthy Pantry Initiative (PA HPI) and a partnership with Philabundance
The Pennsylvania Healthy Pantry Initiative (PA HPI) is a project of Feeding Pennsylvania in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Through these partnerships, Feeding PA is working with its member food banks to increase access to healthy food within food pantries and increase consumption of healthy food by pantry clients through various promotion methods. Seven nutrition educators have been hired across the state to work directly with the food pantries in their service areas.
“The first time I stepped foot in the FoodFirst Pantry, I was so impressed with their grocery store-style set up. Guests are able to shop with dignity as they pick out food for their families. The staff are committed to providing the community with healthy food and are eager to learn how they can improve their efforts. Janice and the rest of the pantry staff are a pleasure to work with, and I leave my visits feeling inspired!” Katie Gunter, MS RDN LDN PA HPI Nutrition Educator Philabundance.
The Process: The Behind the Scenes of the Partnership
- Philabundance nutrition educator ran a baseline assessment to analyze the successes and opportunities of the pantry
- The nutrition educator facilitated a training on PA HPI and how to implement changes
- Conversion materials (shelving and baskets) were provided to Bebashi through DOH grant
- Signage, recipes, and videos were distributed directly to PA HPI pantries and through the feedingpa.org/hpi website
The Impact: Impacts of the Philabundance + Bebashi FoodFirst Pantry Partnership
Since partnering with Philabundance on the Healthy Pantry Initiative in the beginning of 2021, Bebashi has made many changes to ensure guests would be encouraged to make healthy choices. The staff members of the FoodFirst pantry now feel more confident in directing guests to making healthier choices and can answer questions about food and health more effectively. The pantry utilizes a point system based on household size that determines how much food a guest can pick up per visit. The staff members have made the healthier choices, such a canned fruits and vegetables and protein, only one point. Fresh produce is not assigned any points, and guests can take as much as they’d like. Foods that are higher in sodium, fat, and added sugar were assigned higher point values. In addition, Bebashi staff have added a healthy donations list to their website, which includes whole wheat pasta, 100% fruit juice, and low sodium canned goods. These new habits were directly attributed to HPI.
“Bebashi’s participation in the Healthy Pantry Initiative (HPI) comes at an opportune moment for our Food First Pantry. Because our pantry now offers a client-choice, grocery style model of pantry service, we want to be more intentional about offering our pantry visitors healthy food choices. Through our participation in HPI, we will better monitor our food purchases, encourage more donations of produce and foods lower in sugar and sodium, use more signage to highlight healthy options, and provide pantry visitors with easy to prepare healthy recipes.” – Janice Tosto, Hunger Relief Supervisor at Bebashi