Work Component

The Pantry Work Component Program is a fast-track hands-on vocational training program aimed at helping homeless or low-wage workers overcome barriers to career advancement for the purpose of breaking the cycle of chronic homelessness or financial instability.  Most government anti-poverty programs and policies have focused around getting people into the workforce coupled with various government benefits, like WIC, Medicaid, TANF, public housing, SNAP, etc. as the remedy for elevating them out of poverty status. However, for the bottom 10 percent of wage earners, around 30 weeks of full-time work per year are needed to generate earnings equal to the poverty line for a single individual. Further, the addition of benefits does little to move the dial on their economic status if the worker does not possess skills commensurate with career advancement. While the Pantry Work Component Program functions in a similar way to government anti-poverty programs, it serves as a more comprehensive, case managed effort to provide a higher level of job skills utilizing the host of services Rising Up has in place. 

The Pantry Work Component program is an offshoot of Rising Up’s partnership with the Food Bank of the Rockies (FBR).  After Rising Up’s staff completed the FBR on-line university courses in food safety, warehousing and civil rights, it was evident these courses could be utilized as a job training program for any of the agency’s clients interested and willing to participate. Since Rising Up’s clients have not generally had the opportunity to pursue a higher education, they are relegated to accepting low-skilled, low-wage jobs that offer little opportunity for advancement and a higher standard of living.  Whereas, post-secondary or vocational educational programs require a significant financial investment, the Pantry Work Component program offers the same benefits of a vocational training program at no cost to the worker. The courses provide knowledge and job skills in the areas of warehousing, food safety, merchandising, customer service and even classes on computer software for use in an administrative or office management position. The benefits of the program to Rising Up’s clients are the following:

  •          Hands-on education

  •          Quick career path

  •          Expanded career opportunities

  •          High job demand

  •          Flexible training hours

Upon completion of the on-line portion of the training, participants are placed with a trainer to supervise and direct them on how to successfully operate a food pantry and to perform routine record keeping and procedural management. The experience and training are extensive enough for application to employment opportunities with above minimum wage and entry-level positions. Furthermore, the skills acquired working in the pantry are relevant to the area’s job market where there is demand for skilled employees among local employers.  Walmart, Cargill Food Systems, Leprino, Viaero as well as Colorado Plains Medical Center have regular openings for employment requiring warehousing, customer service and safety skills. These jobs offer excellent wages, benefits and upward mobility. 

The success of the Work Component program is measured by the employment outcomes of the participants. Rising Up maintains a case management relationship with each individual participating in the program for the extent of one year after completing the initial courses and hands-on training. The effect of the training is also measured through participant’s self-assessment and feedback as well as likelihood of finding and maintaining employment. If it is necessary to offer continued supportive services in the form of monthly food pantry assistance, maintaining government benefits and public housing, these indicators are also measured as to the effectiveness of the program. The ultimate measure of success is for a participant to complete the program, find gainful full-time employment with an above average wage that offers the possibility of moving away from all forms of supportive services or government benefits. 

The ideal scenario is not always attainable due to the living situation of the participant. For example, a single parent with small children or a disabled individual may not want to jeopardize their benefit status by moving into a higher wage bracket. In that case, they may seek a part-time job to maintain their benefits because a higher full-time wage may not offer the level of income necessary to support a disability or the economic demands of raising children. Regardless, all participants receive a new knowledge and skill set which improves their employment opportunities but most importantly their self-worth and personal potential. 

The Work Component Program solidifies the mission of the organization to create innovative, lasting solutions to hunger, homelessness and poverty. With the pantry program, the agency can utilize its existing resources to assist those struggling yet striving to rise up from the difficulties of their individual situation.  Immediate direct assistance can offer a bridge to stability in some cases, but chronic financial instability must be met with a comprehensive allocation of support and resources that close the gaps in sustainability. 

Since the inception of the Work Component Program, employment outcomes have been positive demonstrating the program’s success and potential for continued growth. 

Outcomes

Work Component  

•2018 - 2 individuals successfully completed the program and attained gainful employment.

  •          2019 – 3 individuals successfully completed the program and attained gainful employment

  •          2020 – 1 individual successfully completed the program and attained gainful employment