For decades, Dwelling Place Church (formerly Vineyard Church) in Anaheim has been engaged in the work of providing food for families in need. They were one of the first churches to work with the Second Harvest Food Bank – a relationship that goes back to 1984. In 2021 alone, Dwelling Place distributed 1,807,547 pounds of food from Second Harvest to the community.
Last week, the church unveiled the Dwelling Place Food Pantry – a radically new approach to food distribution that departs from the conventional method of giving recipients boxes of food that may or may not suit their needs. Instead, the Food Pantry works, by function and design, as a grocery store where families gone shop for food just as they would at a supermarket – except at no cost.
The Food Pantry is the brainchild of Lambert Lo, who leads the Compassion ministry at Dwelling Place. The pantry is an 8,300 square foot grocery store located in the Dwelling Place Church building on La Palma Avenue in Anaheim.
Families shop by appointment by visiting the Food Pantry website and registering for time slots between 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Evening shopping is also available on Wednesdays from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Otherwise, the experience is identical to shopping at a grocery store. The Dwelling Place Food Pantry has sections for meat, produce, dairy, eggs, coffee, fresh bread, cereals, etc. The food is quality – the meat department even offers tomahawk steaks. Families get a shopping cart and pick the items that meet their particular dietary and culinary needs – rather than simply taking what is given to them.
The Dewlling Place Food Pantry also provides services such as health and tutoring that families can access during their visit.
“I know it’s difficult for a single mom with three kids to have to go from this place to this place with a different appointments when they’re trying to get the food that they need,” Lo told attendees at the April 14 grand opening ceremony.
“Imagine having a food pantry at night. Many people are working multiple jobs and sometimes night is the only time they can come,” said Lo. “Families can come here and check their kids into homework help at night while they shop at the Pantry.
Speaking at the grand opening, Second Harvest Food Bank CEO Claudia Bonilla Keller talked about the pandemic and thank everyone who had helped make it possible to meet that challenge.
“At one point, we were feeding over 650,000 people on average, per month. That is mind boggling,” said Keller. “But the people that came together to make sure that no one went hungry – many are in this room.”
“We like to say the City of Anaheim fed the County of Orange at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Keller. “Many people in this room not only put their money where their mouth was – they put their sweat to work. I’m happy to say that Mayor Sidhu, Councilman Faessel, Representative Kim, Representative Correa were all out there on Saturdays, loading boxes of food into the trunk of people. That is amazing. And I thank each one of you for what you did.”
Addressing the grand opening, Keller praised the Food Pantry’s innovative philosophy: allowing families to make their own choices, respecting the dignity of the families by making the food distribution process as much like a normal shopping trip as possible.
That observation was corroborated by a video testimonial played during the event, in which families who had accessed the Food Pantry during the soft opening period. While voicing gratitude for the traditional here-is-a-box-of-food method of food distribution, they expressed appreciation being able to make their own food choices that best suited their families.
“This is way better,” said one mom. “It’s nice food that’s offered, and is the same food I would pick at the grocery stores.”
“And that to me, as a mom, is nice,” she said.
“This new food pantry is truly a game changer,” said Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu. “Gone are the days for getting the food from the warehouse or at a drive thru here at vineyard and a food pantry. Families can shop for what they need in a bright, warm and inviting setting. They will leave with healthy quality food. But more than that they will shop the dignity and leave in hope.”