While food pantries are undeniably important suppliers of emergency food aid, they don’t always have the capacity to reach the people who need them the most; the disabled, the elderly and parents without access to childcare are often left out of the equation. The West Side Campaign Against Hunger (WSCAH) hopes to address this problem in an innovative way: They’re planning to launch a mobile food pantry housed in a truck that functions similarly to their brick and mortar establishment. The traveling pantry will park outside of New York City Housing Authority housing and other residences, providing food access to people who can’t reach them otherwise.
Unlike existing mobile food pantries, which mostly provide customers with pre-selected boxes of food, the WSCAH vehicle will follow a model closer to that of a supermarket in that clients can choose their own groceries based on government-recommended MyPlate allowances for each food group.
WSCAH pioneered this system in 1993 and it quickly caught on across the country. Although the truck has spatial limitations, they have no plans to leave this approach behind. They’ll also adapt their effective customer-volunteer cooperative model (more info here) for the mobile pantry. “We are unwilling to sacrifice these high quality innovations just because we’ll be on wheels,” said Hannah Lupien, WSCAH’s Policy Director.
The mobile pantry, which is set to open sometime in 2016, will also house a counselor who can help customers gain access to public benefits, legal counselors and credit counselors. Like the existing pantry, their ultimate goal is to help clients reach a point where they no longer need WSCAH’s services. Although they are confident that they will be able to secure capital funding, they’ll need to raise more money to cover operating costs and to buy food. They’re committed to buying half the poundage of the food they distribute through local farmers, milk distributors and wholesalers.
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