Programs, often established informally, that provide and monitor the use of a refrigerator or storage cupboard in a public space in which anyone in the neighbourhood can place food donations, or from which anyone can "take what you need, leave what you can" in the spirit of mutual aid. Donations of other necessities such as personal hygiene items may also be encouraged. Properly storing food is imperative to keeping it safe making it vital that someone is responsible for not only keeping the fridge or cabinet clean, but making sure fridges maintain proper temperature to ensure that the food does not spoil. In some areas, fridge set-ups may be in violation of local health codes, so those willing and able to launch a fridge operation are encouraged to check with the local health department before opening.
Programs that acquire food products through donations, canned food drives, food bank programs or direct purchase and distribute the food to people who are in emergency situations. Some pantries deliver food to people whose disabilities or illnesses make it difficult for them to leave home.
Programs that supply food coupons which can be exchanged in designated grocery stores, supermarkets and/or farmers markets for food products. The vouchers are generally provided to low income individuals and families on an occasional or ongoing basis, but may also be available to other specified populations; and may be issued in paper or electronic formats.
Programs that provide necessary food items that are not regularly or even typically available through most food pantries for people who are in emergency situations and unable to purchase the items at retail prices or have been unable to locate those items in their local stores. Included are programs that provide access to food and related products such as water and ice that are currently unavailable due to shortages precipitated by a fire, flood, hurricane, earthquake, tornado, ice storm, power outage or other disaster/emergency; and those which supply food that is required by people with special dietary needs, reflects a particular dietary and/or culinary preference or conforms to the dietary rules of a particular religion.
The above terms and definitions are part of the Taxonomy of Human Services, used here by permission of INFO LINE of Los Angeles.