Laura Eblen, Class of 2019

Posted: Dec 15, 2023 | Author: Co-Founder, Ser Tech
Here is some of the info on my DE project, the Mazuma Pantry. 
The topic that spoke most to me was food insecurity. Having battled this as a young adult, I remember how hard I worked to hide the need. 
The concept started in January of 2020 and by March 1, 2020 we were fully funded and launched. 
The project ended up creating a food pantry, funded by Mazuma team members for the benefit of Mazuma team members. The credit union generously provides the space at all locations for the pantry and has approved use of internal communication channels for the project. No other support is provided by the credit union. All on-going efforts are supported by the Mazuma team. 
The Need: In 2019, 1 in 7 people in the KC area were unsure of where their next meal would come from or even when. This meant that at any given time 27 of our team members were food insecure. It was important to communicate that being food insecure is not about how much an individual at Mazuma is paid. There are many reasons someone may be facing food insecurity. 
The Solution: A pantry of shelf stable foods and basic hygiene items was purchased and housed in a location where a majority of the team would walk by on a daily basis. The idea being that someone could easily slip in and grab items from the shelves. Not long after the pantry started, the world closed down. A food pantry can’t exactly offer virtual food; however, we could continue to offer this service. Any team member could fill out an anonymous request form indicating their area of need, family size, any allergies that might need to be addressed and most importantly how the team member wished to have their request fulfilled. We offered two options, door drop off OR the team member would be asked to open their car trunk at a specific time. The group that fills the requests, called the MazAngels, would then drop off the items as requested. This allowed everyone access to the pantry regardless of location. 
Mazuma logo with a halo over it and angel wings on the side
As donations increased, the pantry was able to expand to offer items at all branch locations as well as the HQ building. In 2021, a larger donation was gifted which allowed the pantry in 2022 to fund Wal-Mart pick up and expanded the pantry from shelf stable food to fresh & refrigerated items. While there are always dreams of expanding, space and anonymous access has to be considered. In 2023, the MazAngels announced a partnership with a local thrift store to supply a team member with a very basic capsule wardrobe: 2 shirts, 2 pants (or other dress code bottoms), and at least one pair of shoes. The intranet site where the request form is housed also has links to local charitable organizations, local buy nothing groups, and other community resources. 
The formation of the MazAngels was very intentional, the small anonymous group of Mazumans uses a masked email address for communication. The core 4 MazAngels meet monthly to assess needs, create fundraising opportunities, plan for the future and look for ways to continue to meet the hidden needs of the team. The demand continues to grow and many other team members wish to become involved. In the summer of 2023, the Angel Ambassador program was launched which is made up of non-anonymous Mazumans who remind their departments about MazAngels and can share back to the core 4 group any outstanding needs, pantry refills, etc. The Angel Ambassadors serve to amplify the work and create awareness of this offering. 
How many people have the MazAngels helped? Ahhhhh friends, that is the secret. The MazAngels will never tell who has requested, donated, or used the service. With more team members back in the office, the branch pantries and main HQ pantry are seeing higher usage. It is not unreasonable to say the original estimate of 1 in 7 people was understated. The MazAngels know we can’t possibly end world hunger, or even solve it for those in our local communities; however, we can address it here at this office space we call home. 


Pantry Charter

Pantry Team Communication

Additional Information

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