Salvation Army makes moves to better serve public food shelf

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2023

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The Salvation Army in Austin has made a variety of moves it hopes will help better serve the public.

On Tuesday, Major Jeff Strickler showed off some of the changes that were visible, including how people shop for food.

“We’ve seen an increase in numbers really this past year as prices go up,” Strickler said. “A lot of families are struggling a little bit more with food.”

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The moves are designed to better streamline how people shop for their food at the Salvation Army in an effort to increase efficiency. One of the biggest moves was shifting dry goods to the facility’s chapel where people can more easily access what’s available.

Likewise, perishable goods also have their own room.

Another move the Salvation Army has made is to increase the number of times it serves households from twice a week to three times a week for a trial period over the summer, just to see if it’s something they want to continue doing if warranted.

Salvation Army Jeff Strickler talks about some of the changes this summer to the food shelf that the SA hopes will make their operation more efficient for people. Eric Johnson/

“We’ve seen online where there were some families saying they were having a hard time making it twice a month and wondering if there were other places they could go for food,” Strickler said. “We just thought, why don’t we — at least for the summer — go to three times a month where they can come for assistance. We’ll reevaluate at the end of summer.”

On top of all of this, the Salvation Army has added the option to make appointments for pick-ups on Wednesday nights, however, people are required to register first.

“We’re making boxes available so if people don’t want to shop for their food or they are in a hurry they can come and get a pre-packed box of food,” Strickler said.

Strickler said the Salvation Army began instituting these changes a couple months ago not only in an effort to better maximize its efforts to help people in Austin, but also as part of the Hometown Food Security Project, launched this year and that takes aim at finding better solutions to food insecurity with long term reach.

The Salvation Army is a major part of the project and sees this as an opportunity to further explore options for the future.

“We’ve been looking at ways to make our food shelf more accessible,” Strickler said. “Part of what we’re doing is that we’re working with the Hometown Food Security Project coalition. We’re really trying to maximize the use of the building.”

Additionally, that effort has also revealed the limitations of the building. With food being stored in a variety of places within the existing location and no easy way to bring food into the building, Strickler said that the Salvation Army has begun the process of developing a possible  new location.

No plans have been revealed and are very much in their infancy, however, in April the Salvation Army took its first big step by commissioning a needs study.

Unsurprisingly, it showed that the biggest concern the community has is in regard to food security. 

“It’s not a surprise,” Strickler said. “We’re looking at maybe other ways we can build off that, too.”

The major hope is to possibly build a facility — out of the flood plain — that would have both a warehouse space and loading docks.

It would also allow for further ease in people getting their food.

Strickler went on to say that the state of Salvation Army is sitting pretty good. He said that they are now fully staffed, which helps maintain efficiency, but Strickler is also under no illusions regarding the challenges food shelves across the state are having.

“A Minnesota food shelves survey in 2022 showed that 57% of food shelf users said they got 50% or more from a food shelf. That really surprised me. I didn’t know it was that high.”

Either way, the Salvation Army will continue to do what it can to continue serving people who need the help, including the continuation of its community meals from 5-5:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday, which also now offers take-out opportunities.

There is also a breakfast on Sunday morning, organized by the Salvation Army’s church staff.