While traditional food pantries have been a reliable resource for serving communities, in recent years hunger relief agencies have started to focus their efforts on pantries on wheels, a more modern food assistance tool. A mobile food pantry has many advantages over traditional food pantries. This innovative way of getting food to those who most need it is gaining popularity and has attracted the attention of donors and nonprofit agencies across the country.
Major corporations recognize the importance of mobile food pantries, and they are willing to spend big money in helping them develop. Starbucks, for example, invested $1.5 million to develop mobile pantry programs in 17 American food banks.
Mobile food pantries are an established concept in New York, but they’re still relatively new in other cities, like Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Dallas, Texas. Both of these cities started operating mobile food assistance programs in 2019.
Let’s look at some of the ways that the mobile food pantry improves the way we help people who are food insecure in our communities. This will ultimately make a difference in the world.
Three Ways that the Mobile Food Pantry is Changing the World
- They allow for fast, flexible delivery of healthy food to hungry people.
Mobile food pantry eliminates obstacles that keep food insecure families and individuals from having access to traditional food pantry resources in underserved regions. Food desert residents have few or no nutritious food options. Many people who live in food deserts have to rely on fast-food restaurants for unhealthy meals.
More than 23 million Americans live in food deserts. This includes millions of people living in rural areas less than 10 miles from a grocery store.
A mobile food pantry can transform the way a community eats. Food-insecure residents will be able to make healthier food choices when a truckload full of nutritious food is delivered directly to their areas.
Pantries on wheels can be used to deliver rescued food or grocery products quickly and easily, such as meat, fruits and vegetables, bread, and other baked goods. Because of the quick turnaround between the time the pantry receives food and the time it is delivered to the recipients, mobile pantries can often carry more perishable food.
Mobile pantries can also be flexible and add distribution sites as needed.
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- They are removing the stigma around food pantries.
Every area in America is affected by food insecurity. There are more than 40 million Americans who are food insecure. However, there is a stigma attached to the idea of receiving assistance from hunger-relief agencies. Mobile pantries are trying to eliminate this stigma by providing a more shopper experience, where people can choose and take what they want home. They also have a “no-questions-asked” policy, where anyone who needs food assistance is welcomed to receive it.
This market-style distribution model is believed to be helping to remove the stigma surrounding food pantries and help people feel more at home.
- They are reducing food waste.
Food waste is a serious problem all over the globe, including in America where more than 400 pounds of food are thrown away each year. Mobile pantries work hard to reduce food wastage by securing perishable foods that would otherwise be thrown away by businesses. These food recovery initiatives not only improve the lives and livelihoods of low-income families, but also divert food from landfills.
Feeding Westchester alone has 3 million pounds of healthy food recovered annually.
These six shocking facts about food waste [blog article link TBD] will help you learn more about America’s food waste.
The bottom line
A mobile food pantry is an excellent way to help families in rural areas. America’s mobile pantry programs are helping to reduce hunger. They bring fresh, healthy food to those who need it most.
Feeding Westchester is proud to have its own mobile food pantry program. This has been going on for six years. Check out our Mobile Food Pantry schedule for information about where our trucks deliver food every week in Westchester County.
Are you interested in learning if there is a mobile pantry program available near you? Use the Feeding America locator to locate your nearest food bank and to learn more about their offerings in your area.