The Promise Basket began just under two years ago within the walls of the Eagles Evangelistic Outreach Ministries in San Juan.
An active member of her church, Promise Basket's founder Jennifer Regis-Thomas encouraged a group of about 50 women, who were either single mothers or widows, to pool their resources and purchase a quantity of food items, which offered products from all of the food groups. Now, the mother of six boys has seen her venture grow, not only in numbers, but in what's on offer.
The initiative began with one package worth $200, which included a quantity of garden produce, basic dry goods and two whole chickens weighing up to nine pounds collectively. Members also required to pay an annual fee of $200.
Regis-Thomas then opened up the service to others, and in less than one month they had a WhatsApp chat group of close to 100 registered members.
For safety reason,s she referred those interested in the initiative to make payments to Promise Basket's First Citizens bank account listed on its Facebook page.
"We have to remember wisdom in all we do. So while we will get caught up in the hectic activities, from making contact with suppliers to gathering produce to distribution...we are ever mindful that we have to look after and ensure our own safety and that of members who visit to better feed their families,"
It has evolved to three specific "baskets", as well as daily, weekly or twice-monthly specials.
Members can now also choose the We Basket, which consists of a variety of fruits and vegetables only, or for the extremely health conscious, the Healthy Basket comprises a variety of vegetables, a smaller quantity of fruits, as well as alternative speciality flour and water, organic dough and coconut oil.
The specials are usually centred around the main ingredients for specific meals, such as a Sunday special, made up of all the basic ingredients for a family meal, or a Saturday soup special.
Members can also request the substitution of certain items for others, if its feasible, or are encouraged to choose from alternatives that may meet their needs. Chicken can be substituted for fish and members are often privy to fish specials, sold at a fraction of the original basket price.
What all the baskets have in common, though, is the low costs attached. Regis-Thomas also offers her members the option of having their choices delivered to their homes.
"We started with the knowledge that the economy was down, cost of food was high and people were struggling to make ends meet, so we always keep that as out guideline, to ensure members are always satisfied that the prices are affordable and can easily be fitted into whatever their budgets," she said.
Her husband, while not at the forefront of her business, plants at their Santa Cruz home and she utilises the produce in the packages for members. To date, she has four permanent staff and 15 temporary workers, alongside a number of volunteers.
Her supplies are all local and she even sends out a "field" worker to scout for home gardens and resident farmers willing to sell her their produce. Supplies are sourced nationwide and some of her goods are produced by farmers, specifically for the Promise Basket.
Regis-Thomas said its her way of maintaining a specific standard.
And just as she had seen a need then and tried to fill it, she was prompted to reach out to members from within the communities affected by last month's floods. Regis-Thomas quickly mobilised her volunteers and resources and posted on the group's chat, the intention to help in whatever ways they could.
Her members and the flood victims were assured of the safety of consuming the produce offered, as the "sweet potatoes came from the hills of Las Cuevas and were therefore not affected by the recent floods". Her social media posts assured that they had gone to "great lengths to order from our farmers in regions such as Paramin, Moruga and Las Cuevas, where there was no report of flooding".
While, her venture seems destined to continue its growth, Regis-Thomas said, "God did this and will continue to do it. All I can do is make myself and the Promise Basket available to be used in whatever way, He sees fit."