Naperville's Loaves & Fishes switching to 'open market' layout to promote healthy foods

The bottleneck in aisle four at Loaves & Fishes Community Services in Naperville soon will be no more and the pantry will have more room for fresh, healthy foods.

Loaves & Fishes on Wednesday kicked off a reconfiguration of its grocery area at 1871 High Grove Lane to add a display of healthy meal options with all the right food groups and create an open floor plan more like a farmers market.

Megan Selck, interim executive director, said the change will help the roughly 33,000 families the pantry serves each year make more nutritious choices following the Smart Check program, which promotes foods high in fiber and low in sodium, sugar and saturated fat.

"This will allow for our client experience to be more dignified and more convenient for our clients to select nutritious food," Selck said. "It will be an open market concept similar to a lot of the newer grocery stores."

When the reconfiguration is complete, clients will walk in to a display of "center of plate products," which volunteer leaders Jim and Patrice Lia say will contain suggested meal combinations with a grain, a protein, a fruit and a vegetable. Farther back will be two large produce tables and a refrigerated produce case for prepared salads.

"The way that they're going to reconfigure will not only put healthy food at eye level," said Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nicki Anderson, who also volunteers at the pantry, "this will allow more freedom for the clients to move around."

Aisle four, where refrigerated goods such as milk and eggs are stored, always creates a holdup when pantry shoppers are progressing through the grocery area with volunteers, Selck said. But aisles won't be a part of the design when the redesigned space opens June 12; lower display tables will be used to make good food choices easier to reach.

"I love the move to a more nutrition-based marketplace," said Rachel Ossyra, supervisor of Naperville Township, which partners with Loaves & Fishes to provide food assistance to those in need.

Selck said the renovations to the 18,500-square-foot distribution center will cost $32,000, which Loaves & Fishes has received in donations. Volunteers will help install donated shelving and refrigeration units from grocery companies that are also changing their displays.

The pantry will not close while shelving is shifted and new display tables are added, but the reconfiguration is expected to be unveiled June 12 during the annual Day Without Hunger event.

Selck also said the organization expects to name its permanent executive director later this spring after Charles McLimans left in December to take a similar position in his native state of Wisconsin.

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  A shopper chooses a bag of apples Wednesday at Loaves & Fishes Community Services in Naperville, which is reconfiguring its grocery area to provide more fresh foods. Paul Michna/
  Loaves & Fishes Community Services in Naperville hosted a groundbreaking Wednesday for a reconfiguration of its grocery area to provide more fresh foods. Megan Selck, interim President & CEO, Tonia Khouri, DuPage County Board member for District 5, Naperville City Council member Steve Chirico, pantry supporters Julie and George and Mann, Naperville Township Supervisor Rachel Ossyra, and Nicki Anderson, President and CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, attended the event. Paul Michna/
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