People in Need Can Now Make Food Pantry Reservations Using an OpenTable-Style App

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Previously, hungry people often waited hours in the elements for food

Automated reservation apps like OpenTable have streamlined the hosting process for restaurants in recent years, and now Fast Company reports that a nonprofit hopes to use similar methods to help people dealing with a more serious sort of hunger. The new free app, called Plentiful, works through either an Android phone or basic text messaging to help those in need avoid the hourslong wait times that often plague food pantries.

Many of those who use food pantry services have jobs, children, and a range of other responsibilities, which means that waiting in line for hours — a common experience — can help keep hungry people from catching up. These lines also expose people to the elements for hours on end during the winter. So the New York City Food Assistance Collaborative developed Plentiful with funding from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, and the app is now being used by over 130 food pantries in the city.

Bob Shaver, a consultant who works with the Food Assistance Collaborative, told Fast Company that the system offers “the potential to save three or four hours per week or per visit.”

The app also saves time for most walk-in visitors, because it allows food pantry staff to better space out scheduled visits throughout the day. In the longer term, advocates also expect Plentiful to provide invaluable data to help charities better serve the needs of the less fortunate.

“Being able to say ‘Pantry A’ did 20 percent more service this Thanksgiving than last Thanksgiving … that’s incredibly useful,” Shaver told Fast Company.

Related

Plentiful promises to deliver noticeable improvements for both food pantry patrons and volunteer workers, but it took a concerted effort from a well-funded charity to develop the app. For actions you can take on your own to make a difference on a smaller scale, read about these 60 things you can do to fight hunger in America.