Local food pantry develops app to help clients

Local food pantry develops app to help clients
The FeedTheNation application, developed by the Henry County Food Pantry, collects client data from monthly visitors to the food pantry to connect them with local resources such as job training or career opportunities.

July 4, 2016

Area food banks and charitable organizations now have access to a new mobile application that gives users valuable client data that will help connect those in need to local resources.

Harvest Foundation provided a Pick Up the Pace! (PUP) grant of $8,500 to support FeedTheNation, an app developed by the Henry County Food Pantry. Funding provided by Harvest will offset equipment and training costs.

Sheryl Agee, impact officer and team leader at Harvest, said the foundation is excited to partner with Feeding America Southwest Virginia and the Henry County Food Pantry to pilot this innovative software.

“We feel this has the capability to revolutionize the way our community connects families to needed services and resources that will improve and stabilize their lives,” Agee said. “They (Henry County Food Pantry volunteers) have done an excellent job not only looking at ways they can use existing technology to expand the scope of their work, but how that technology can also help them expand their partnerships in the community for greater impact.”

Adam Wright, president of EMI Imaging, Inc. and a volunteer at the Henry County Food Pantry, put more than 10,000 hours into developing the FeedTheNation app along with Caleb Smith, the lead developer. In addition to streamlining reporting and keeping required information such as temperature logs electronically, the app allows volunteers to track information for clients including special dietary needs, basic demographic information, and the need for specific services like daycare or job search assistance.

The Henry County Food Pantry tested several iterations of apps for the past three years and has used FeedTheNation for the last 12 food distributions, according to Wright.

“Our mission for this app is to help beyond food,” Wright said. “This app allows us to see, in real time, how many clients are visiting, how many of those clients are veterans, and if they’re looking for work. We can track a variety of indicators using the app, and all client information is secure and in accordance with HIPAA regulations.”

Other app capabilities include:

  • notifying clients of job opportunities via text message or email;
  • notifying clients of services available during emergencies;
  • allowing health care providers to identify medically underserved areas;
  • and helping Feeding America Southwest Virginia forecast food distribution for pantries and anticipate needs for increased food assistance.

Wright said he’s presented his application to other Feeding America Southwest Virginia food pantries in locations including Abingdon and Salem. Pamela Irvine, president and CEO of Feeding America Southwest Virginia, said Wright’s work on the FeedTheNation pilot has been “stellar.”

“He took it upon himself to develop a platform that will help reduce the complexity and volume of paper forms food pantries need to complete, and is giving them a way to collect client-level data they’ve never had before,” Irvine said. “The response to FeedTheNation has been wonderful so far, and partner programs are encouraging one another to get involved. We’re very excited to get our pilot program going in Henry County and Martinsville.”

Using FeedTheNation, the Henry County Food Pantry went from a 10-to-13 hour filing and reporting process that is now 30 seconds or less.

“The time savings has been phenomenal,” said Sharon Mills, site director of the Henry County Food Pantry, a partner program of Feeding America Southwest Virginia. “Now, instead of shuffling and filing papers, we can spend more time with our clients looking for ways to help them.”

FeedTheNation is designed to help pantries connect their clients to services and opportunities that will improve and stabilize their lives, while also helping organizations reach full operational potential by providing more efficient reporting methods.

Mills said they’ve had many success stories of local agencies offering employment or other services use Henry County Food Pantry to reach those in need.

“We’ve partnered with Go Healthy West Piedmont to provide fresh produce for families, we’ve had companies like Results and others who contact us to put fliers in our clients’ food boxes, and we’ve had organizations like 4-H contact us to get the word out on classes about nutrition and healthy eating,” Mills said. “We’re getting lots of positive feedback.”

Volunteer Carrie Jones, who also works for EMI Imaging, said she requested to volunteer for the food pantry.

“I asked to be a volunteer because you never know when you could be in this situation,” she said. “Anyone, at some point in time, could be down on their luck. If I’m ever in this situation, I would want someone to do the same for me.”

There are around 70 volunteers who pack boxes and those who help with distribution. Mills said they rely heavily on those willing to give their time.

Henry County resident Linda Logan is a client of the Henry County Food Pantry. She said, “I’m glad they’re here. Some places around here have run out of food. These here are good people, and I’ve been coming here for quite a while. They are nice, courteous, and they try to help you best they can.”

The Henry County Food Pantry is one of several operations in the Historic John D. Bassett High School, located on Riverside Drive in Bassett. The pantry distributes free food to the community every third Wednesday of the month to approximately 300-400 families. To find out more, visit them on Facebook by searching “Henry County Food Pantry,” or call (276) 694-4660.

Pick Up the Pace! grants are available through the Harvest Foundation. They are intended to provide grants up to $10,000 for new ideas, collaborations and positive change that will help us all “pick up the pace” toward creating a community of choice. Find out more here. 


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