A new app lets people who need food make a reservation at their local food pantry.
Its website states that “It doesn’t matter if you can afford meals at a fancy restaurant or need help from your neighborhood pantry. No one should have to wait in line for hours to eat”. This could be a game-changer in our fight against hunger. It operates on any phone via test, and allows users to check service times, get updates and make reservations at one’s favorite food pantry. This is a completely free system available to food pantries in the 5 boroughs of New York, hopefully nationwide in the future, and the people they serve.
It is a a project of the New York City Food Assistance Collaborative, a coalition of public and private organizations working to alleviate hunger in New York City.
“If you think about the word ‘food pantry,’ the image that comes to mind is usually a group of people waiting in line out in the elements for food,” says Bob Shaver, associate principal at Redstone, a consultancy that works on social issues and helped establish the New York City Food Assistance Collaborative.
Why allow for reservations? After all aren’t these people out of work with time on their hands to wait? Absolutely not – and frankly is just the opposite. For those who need food–many of whom have jobs, but struggle to afford groceries on their own–the new system gives them back valuable time, says FAST COMPANY. “In just about every pantry, there is a small group of people that show up before dawn and wait several hours before the first service actually happens,” Shaver says. “For those people, it’s the potential to save three or four hours per week or per visit.”
Another group of people may need food but be too embarrassed to wait in line outside a food pantry.
Since the app launched in December 2016, 130 pantries in New York City have started using it. And a big benefit comes from the data collected. The app collects information for hunger organizations to begin to discover larger patterns and adjust systems to become more efficient. Fast Company says that the system can also identify how far people are traveling for food and whether some neighborhoods need new pantries. There is no embarrassment in being hungry, and Plentiful might just be the tool we need to help feed millions.