Food Bank Update
On Thursday, November 17, we received an unannounced and unexpected inspection of our Food Bank ministry. We have received a written review of that inspection. The results were overwhelmingly positive. This surprise inspection again proves that it is no surprise that our Food Bank is exceptional.
What We Knew
We knew that our Food Bank ministry was something special. For 2016, we have served an average of 499 people per month. In addition to the people we serve, we also engage the high-quality volunteer efforts of 12-to-15 of our members. The result of these efforts is priceless "best foot forward" public relations. The Liberty Church of Christ is well known and well respected for our Food Bank.
What We Didn't Know
We did not know that we were subject to inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In fact, USDA has only recently started inspecting "food pantries" (their term for operations such as ours; they use the term "food bank" to describe much larger operations like the Houston Food Bank). We are in the USDA loop of inspections due to the fact that we "distribute" food.
Not only did we not know that we were subject to USDA inspections, but we also had no idea about the kinds of things that the USDA would be inspecting (nothing like a surprise inspection covering surprises!). We only learned about their checklist as the inspector went down the list.
In brief, the checklist focused on policies and procedures, security, and record keeping necessary to make sure that the food we distribute is safe and fit for consumption. We received "checks" for all items except one. We do not have (yet - we're working on it) a written summary of our policies and procedures. We can't feel too bad about missing this one mark - recall that we did not know we were subject to USDA inspection and did not know what items would be inspected.
How We Passed With Flying Colors
Three things ensured the success of our USDA inspection.
1. First, on the day that inspector came, we had a huge crowd. Even so, the distribution was very organized and "tame" (the inspector's words). Evidence of good procedures were visible in what was happening.
2. Second, Wayne did an outstanding job working with the inspector. Good inspectors can "smell" effective coordinators, and Wayne didn't smell bad at all.
3. Third, good inspectors can also smell bad record keeping. When Barb was able to immediately hand the inspector every piece of paper he asked for, he was obviously very pleased.
Three Other Things
Three other factors greatly pleased the inspector.
1. The inspector told us that what he fears the most is a food pantry that is disheveled and dirty. Wayne and his crew deserve all the credit in the world for keeping our FLC tidy and clean.
2. The inspector also told us that he distrusts food pantries that lack oversight. He spoke negatively of small, independent religious groups in which the director of the food panty is also the one and only leader (pastor) of the church. He was pleased that we have a "board" of elders who oversee our Food Bank.
3. The inspector told us that we save ourselves a lot of trouble by receiving a food truck, emptying it, storing very little food, and not having refrigerated storage. Failure to maintain proper temperatures in refrigerated storage is one of the most common "dings" received by food pantries. The inspector wondered why all food pantries do not operate like we do.
The positive conclusion of this inspection will likely be the conclusion of all USDA inspections. The inspector told us that the USDA employs only 150 inspectors nation wide and that they are to spend on 15% of their time of food pantries. He told us that due to USDA's limited personnel, and due to our excellent inspection, we will probably not soon see another inspector.