NORWALK — When Bill Peltz began organizing this fall’s food drive at the United Church of Rowayton in partnership with Person-to-Person, the food pantry sent him a list of healthy requests: salmon and chicken in water, unsalted nuts and seeds, granola bars and other foods low in salt and sugar.

The list was part of the Person-to-Person’s initiative for healthier foods.

In the aisles of the nonprofit’s newly renovated pantry, clients can load their carts with rutabagas, apples, tuna, peanut butter and beans. A recipe of the week is printed on cards for inspiration, and volunteers are available to discuss nutritional choices.

“The other day, I found bok choy, and I was blown away,” said Domica Skipworth, a recent client at Person-to-Person. “What I like is I always find great nutritional things.”

Skipworth should know a quality pantry when she sees one — she said she organized one herself while working as the resident service coordinator at the Eleanor Apartments in Bridgeport. When her position was eliminated, she found her finances pinched as she supported herself and her high school daughter while shuttling to Springfield College in Massachusetts, where she is pursuing her master’s degree in human services.

“I’m very enterprising in finding resources — I was known for it,” Skipworth said. “My situation turned around and I had to be a client for myself.” So she opened up her black leather binder of business cards and called Person-to-Person.

“Just because someone has hardship does not mean they should not have access to quality food,” she said.

Susan Zelman, the Norwalk site manager at the pantry, said that she heard similar sentiments when Person-to-Person gave a nutritional class in April. “That’s where I heard, ‘No, I don’t like to take that because of all the sodium in that.’ Or, ‘No, that’s not really healthy.’”

She came away realizing that if she wanted to best serve her clients, the pantry would have to sharpen its focus on healthy foods.

Person-to-Person gets much of its food in bulk from food banks or stores such as Costco or Trader Joe’s. “But at the food bank, we can’t say we want five Italian wedding soups. We have to get cases of it,” Zelman said. So the pantry relies on church drives like the one in Rowayton to add variety to its shelves.

The pantry provides recipes — for example, apple carrot slaw or pumpkin chili — so that people can make the most of the ingredients that come in.

“Give them the tools and the ideas, and they will come,” Zelman said. Take, for instance, rutabagas. “No one knew what to do with them, but we were getting them from the food bank, and they were beautiful,” she said. The pantry put out recipes on how to roast them, and the rutabagas flew off the shelves. “Now they come back asking for them.”

The food drive at the United Church of Rowayton will take place Sunday through Oct. 9. Food can be dropped off in the lobby of the church Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or during Sunday service at 10:15 a.m. Suggested donations included canned fish, beans, stews, 100 percent fruit spread and whole-grain products.

rschuetz@hearstmediact.com; @raschuetz