Instead of being handed a box full of goods like at most food pantries, those who visit Family Promise of Hall County’s recently opened Family Food Market can peruse the aisles and choose their own groceries for free.
“It’s not up for us to judge what we think your family should eat, compared to what my family eats,” said Lynette Croy, the nonprofit’s program coordinator.
The market, which launched earlier in October, is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month.
To pick up food, all residents need to do is visit Family Promise, located at 3606 McEver Road in Oakwood, and fill out a short form that asks for a name, address, household size and phone number. Danielle Latlippe, who oversees the food market, said if someone doesn’t have a home, they can leave the address portion blank.
Family Food Market
What: Client choice pantry with free food for those in need around Hall County
Where: Family Promise of Hall County, 3606 McEver Road, Oakwood
Hours: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the second and fourth Tuesday of each month
How it works: Fill out a form at Family Promise, shop at the pantry
To donate: Ask for Lynette Croy of Danielle Latlippe at 770-535-0786
Latlippe said people of all ages and backgrounds are welcome to shop at the market, even those who live alone. If they express a need, Family Promise will help them.
“We don’t turn anybody away,” Latlippe said.
Family Promise dedicates itself to helping homeless families in Hall through its Next Step Affordable Housing Program, Christmas Promise Store, Little Steps Community Day Care, Diaper Bank and other community-support programs.
Most of the food market’s supplies come from Georgia Mountain Food Bank, and all the shopping carts were donated by J&J Foods in Gainesville.
Before entering the market, Latlippe said visitors must don masks. Only one person per household can enter the 500-square-foot space, and the nonprofit only allows two clients to visit at a time. Depending on a person’s household size, they will be given a grocery limit.
Each group of items are labeled in both English and Spanish, and bilingual volunteers help guide people through the process when needed.
"They still have to budget because they get a certain amount of food,” Croy said. “It’s just like going to the grocery store.”
Sandra Collazo, who just moved to Gainesville, said she saw the sign outside Family Promise and decided to check out the market Tuesday, Oct. 27.
“It’s awesome,” Collazo said while filling her cart with groceries. “I think it’s a good idea. They give you the choice, and you have a quantity to take. For me, that is best.”
Sue Tibbetts, Family Promise’s longest working volunteer, said she is overwhelmed to see how far the nonprofit has come since it opened in a “little house behind Pizza Hut.” She said the organization’s most recent location in Oakwood has provided ample space to expand its offerings and open the food market.
“It’s just a miracle,” Tibbetts said, smiling. “The people who come through, they're so excited. Here they can push their buggies around and choose what they want.”
Latlippe said she can’t anticipate the type of groceries the market will receive each week because it all comes from the food bank’s inventory. The location currently is stocked with a selection of meat, eggs, canned goods, bread, frozen vegetables, baby food, toilet paper, diapers and nonperishable items, like cereal and chips.
In the next few weeks, Latlippe said the nonprofit will have a better grasp on what items are in high demand.
Latlippe encourages those wanting to support the market to either volunteer on-site or make a monetary or food donation. For more information call Family Promise at 770-535-0786 or visit familypromisehall.org.