The Afiya Apartments community room buzzes with activity on the first Monday of every month, also known as Extra Helping day. Extra Helping is a Food For Lane County Program that provides residents of affordable housing sites a few extra groceries to help stretch limited resources. The Afiya Apartments are part of ShelterCare's Supported Housing program.
James Bartik, ShelterCare peer support specialist, helps coordinate the Extra Helping excursions for Afiya. "Everyone is invited," he says. "We meet outside the building at a set time, and I drive us all to Food for Lane County in the ShelterCare van." James goes on to explain that the outings are about much more than food: "It's an opportunity for residents to socialize, to get involved in the community, and to learn self-advocacy skills."
When James and the Afiya residents arrive at Food For Lane County on Extra Helping Day, up to three residents can go in at a time. They sign in, indicate how many are in their household, and then select an assortment of food, which will be distributed among all Afiya residents. The Extra Helping program includes Food For Lane County's "overstock" of perishable food that needs to be used fairly quickly — items like yogurt, juice, fresh fruit and vegetables, and baked goods.
James helps the residents load up the van with the food and drives everyone back to Afiya, where everything is laid out in the community room. Then, residents draw names and take turns "shopping" for groceries. Nancy's brand yogurt is especially prized, as is orange juice.
Soon, James says, the residents will be confident enough in the process to organize the monthly trips on their own.