Food Bank Partnership helps Washoe County Social Services cut costs


Finding a way to cut costs on groceries while trying to shop for the same amount of food has nearly become a national pastime over the past few years. The staff at Washoe County Child Protective Services has done exactly that by finding a way to increase the amount of food on their shelves and save money through the help of a partnership with the Kids to Seniors Korner Program and the Food Bank of Northern Nevada (FBNN).

Historically CPS, which is a division of Washoe County Social Services, has had a food pantry filled with non-perishable items to provide emergency food assistance to families that came into contact with the agency. The director of social services, Kevin Schiller, says at times the cupboards were sparse, “We filled the pantry with very basic items, such as macaroni and cheese, canned vegetables, canned beans, tuna and peanut butter. There wasn’t a great deal of variety, but it definitely provided a nutritious meal or two for a family in need.”

In order to keep the pantry stocked it cost CPS around $3,500 a year and utilized a great deal of staff time, not only to take inventory but also to shop for all of the groceries that were kept on the shelves.

In September of last year, a collaborative effort was formed among the Kids to Seniors Korner program, Washoe County Department of Social Services and the Food Bank of Northern Nevada. The Kids to Seniors Korner program agreed to sponsor the Washoe County Department of Social Services so that they could utilize the amazing services being provided by the Food Bank. The sponsorship was made available through the non-profit status of the Kids to Seniors Korner program, which qualified as a 501(c)3 in order to access FBNN.

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Now the Food Bank sends weekly shopping lists to the CPS agency, allowing staff to order specific items to stock the pantry.

Schiller says the reaction to the transformation of the CPS food pantry has been overwhelming. “Our pantry is now stocked from top to bottom with nutritious and delicious items that offer much more variety to our families than we ever could have imagined. Also, when we pick up our orders once a week, we are offered an abundant amount of perishable items at no additional cost to CPS. Fresh vegetables, fruit, meats, yogurts, breads and all of these items are then dispersed directly to the children and families working with our agency. You can’t imagine how exciting it is for our staff to see children experience the taste of a fresh mango for the first time while they are visiting with their parents, or having a mother ask us how to prepare asparagus because she had never had it before and would like to make it for her children.”

In addition to the increase in food quality, the financial savings to CPS is nearly $3,000 per year due to the program.

Schiller concluded that the benefits go way beyond the monetary savings, “We are able to offer families much more variety and you can’t put a price tag on that. There are times where the only reason a report is being made to our agency is because a person does not have enough food to provide to their family. Having the partnership with the FBNN allows us to give those families the necessities they need in order to be able to keep their children in their home and provide excellent nutritional choices to them as well.”

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