The JFS Specialty Pantry: Providing Nourishment During the COVID Crisis

What Makes the JFS Specialty Pantry Unique?

Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County is proud to offer the only Specialty Food Pantry in the county. Our pantry serves a wide range of residents in need, including single adults, families with children, older adults, and newly resettled refugees. Apart from non-perishable items, we also provide fresh produce, meats, and a variety of specialty food items to accommodate medical or religious dietary restrictions.

Instead of prepackaging bags for our clients, we give them the freedom to choose the items they need, within the guidelines of how many bags they can have and the quantities of each item (such as one canned fruit option). Our goal is to create an experience similar to shopping at a grocery store, from the type of bags we use to the attentive customer service we provide.

The JFS Specialty Food Pantry stands out as the only one of its kind in Washtenaw County, regularly offering specialty food items such as gluten-free, dairy-free, low-sodium products, and liquid nutrition for seniors. We also cater to those who observe Kosher and Halal food guidelines.

Operating Hours During the COVID Crisis

Please note that due to the COVID crisis, the pantry’s services have been altered. Currently, the pantry is open for access every Tuesday and Thursday from 11 am to 4 pm.

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Home delivery is available in Ann Arbor on the third Tuesday and Wednesday of each month. Ypsilanti deliveries are scheduled for the last Thursday of every month.

Who Can Benefit from the Pantry?

Food insecurity can affect anyone, and our Specialty Food Pantry serves individuals from diverse backgrounds and circumstances. Our refugee families rely on our pantry until they can access food stamp benefits or achieve financial self-sufficiency. We also support older adults, immigrant families, individuals with physical and mental disabilities, and families in need. If you encounter challenges in assisting a particular client, please inform your JFS supervisor, and we will provide you with tips and strategies to help.

How Can Someone Utilize the Pantry?

People learn about our food pantry through recommendations from friends, case workers, medical teams, or online sources. When someone visits the pantry for the first time, without prior screening, they are provided with enough food for one individual. Subsequently, a JFS staff member or intern will contact them to conduct a screening, assessing the number of family members and any additional needs. Completion of the screening is required for continued use of our services. Clients who already utilize other JFS services have already undergone screening.

We do not require proof of income, but we do request evidence of the number of family members in the household.

Once established, individuals can visit the food pantry once a month. Exceptions are made for newly arrived refugee families, who are allowed to shop once a week or until they receive food stamps or achieve financial independence. Other exceptions to the monthly rule are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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The number of bags a client receives is determined by the size of their household. Each bag contains non-perishable food items. Additionally, individuals will receive meat, dairy items, eggs, produce, and personal care products.

A Walkthrough of a Visit to the JFS Specialty Pantry

What to Expect

  1. Clients should sign in at the reception desk upon arrival.
  2. JFS staff, interns, or volunteers will refer to the sign-in sheet to determine the client’s previous visit and the number of people in their household.
  3. Clients will be guided into the pantry by JFS staff, interns, or volunteers in the order of their arrival.
  4. Clients will sign their USDA sheet.
  5. Clients may then choose their dairy, eggs, and meat options.
  6. After selecting perishable items, clients will proceed to non-perishable items, produce, and finally, personal care products.
  7. Upon leaving, the client’s visit will be documented by JFS staff or an intern.

JFS Food Pantry

By offering a personalized and dignified approach to food assistance, the JFS Specialty Pantry strives to support individuals and families in need throughout Washtenaw County.

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