Chapter Thirteen: Evaluate Your Food Pantry

Note – We continue to offer this version of the scoresheet to provide continuity for people who have already adopted it. For anyone else, we suggest using the newer version from How to Run a Food Pantry instead.

This is a tool that pantries can use to evaluate themselves, or which a person or group can use to assess the work of one or many pantries. It evaluates how cost-effectively the pantry mobilizes support, how effectively it employs its food money, how it renders its services, and whether or not it does any of the extra things the last few chapters of this guidebook have recommended.

A perfect pantry—one doing everything 100 percent as we have recommended—will score 127.6 points. A less perfect pantry will score less. But anything above 70 points is well within range of making ending hunger possible. That is my food bank’s current belief and goal: To get the average of pantry scores across our 40-county service area up to at least 70 points.

Pantries that score below 40 points simply must make changes in how they operate if they want to have the amount of resources they employ justified by the amount of hunger they reduce. It is never wrong or bad to give a hungry person food, but if the way it is done humiliates that person without meeting their needs and costs so much that it leaves other people un-served, we can do better than that!

When we began using the score sheet in early 1997 we were quite frankly horrified by what we discovered. I have scored pantries who got as few as 0.006 points! Yikes! You wouldn’t think it was possible for anyone to score that low without their whipping and cursing clients and making them eat slop from a livestock trough, but indeed scores that low are very possible. In fact, widespread use of the score sheet around the country suggests that the average food pantry in the United States that has not been specifically challenged to employ the Waste Not Want Not methods likely scores around 0.12 points. Our pantries averaged 0.4 points in 1997.

Needless to say, our scoring was not always well received. I joke about having been thrown out of more churches than bars! But it’s true. Not many people readily take to the idea that some aspect of their church’s operations is badly in need of improvement. And so some people and pantries rebuffed this whole idea as some kind of evil attack on their cherished traditions.

But the traditions they indignantly defended seemed pretty darned curious to me, particularly in the context of a faith-based organization supposedly fulfilling scriptural mandates. Does the Bible, the Tanakh, the Koran or any other major religious text mandate once a month aid to the poor, or a three-day food box, or making the widow, the orphan, the poor and the stranger show proof of income and a picture identification? None of that junk comes from Scripture! And if it doesn’t come from Scripture, it shouldn’t be a tradition of a supposedly faith-based organization!

Alternate score sheet

So in time we developed a second score sheet, one that goes at these critical food pantry issues from the perspective of “How would you do this or that part of the pantry’s operations if you wanted to draw your inspiration and guidance solely from God?” It asks you to hold up your pantry’s practices to the light of your faith’s teachings to assess how closely they align with those teachings.

By my reading of the world’s major religious faiths’ main scriptural texts I have found that their great teachings mandate practices remarkably similar to those our Waste Not Want Not research identified as able to end hunger. That is, if faith-based food pantries in America will realign their policies and procedures as their faith’s teachings demand, we appear to have the wherewithal to work a miracle: We can end hunger.

Conversely, if pantry services in America continue to be largely rendered without regard to what the Bible and the other great teachings mandate we likely will flounder around until kingdom come without making much of an additional dent in hunger.

So it really doesn’t matter which score sheet people use. They both encourage practices that very cost-effectively mobilize food resources and render aid in ways most likely to bless recipients and meet their needs.

And isn’t that what we ought to do?

Download Score Sheet

Previous Chapter