Looking for a food bank? It got a lot easier


The Thierer Family Foundation, an organization that helps nonprofits achieve greater impact through technology, announced on October 25 that the Vivery platform is now available to all US food banks and pantries.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository has been using the platform for about a year and is reporting significant progress, Crain’s Chicago Business reported. The report comes amid a holiday season marked by rising food prices and economic uncertainty, causing demand for local pantries to soar.

The Vivery online platform is designed “to help members of their communities easily find and access the right food, social programs and services nearby in the ongoing fight against food insecurity,” they said. Thierer officials in a press release. Thierer developed Vivery in partnership with the Food Depot in 2020.

Anyone looking for a food bank or food pantry that is part of the Greater Chicago Food Depository Network can visit chicago foodbank.org, where they will be directed to an interactive map of locations. A recent search for food banks and pantries within five miles of Austin returned 85 results.

“Most people looking for food aid start online,” Thierer officials said. “Yet food banks and pantries often lack the resources to sufficiently create and maintain an accurate online presence, or use outdated search tools limited to a simple postcode or address search. Current search tools may direct users to the nearest food provider, but not necessarily to the program or community resource that best suits their needs.

A screenshot of the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s interactive map to find free groceries or a hot meal at a food pantry, soup kitchen, shelter or mobile distribution in Chicago and Cook County .

Food depot officials said that since replacing their old tool with Vivery more than a year ago, they’ve seen an increase in engagement. The platform features an improved foraging map, better search filters, Spanish language search and improved analytics, they said.

“By focusing on the end-user experience and intentionally focusing on analytics, we can be more responsive to the needs of our community,” said Andy Seikel, chief technology and transformation officer for the food deposit.

“Having seen the improvements firsthand, Vivery is that rare combination of using technology for good that is well positioned to help food banks and pantries really move the needle to eliminate hunger everywhere. the country,” he said.

According to the Food Depository’s 2022 Status Report, 16% of Chicago-area households were food insecure at the start of this year, and 22% of all households with children faced food insecurity. The Food Depository’s network of more than 700 pantries, shelters and pantries served an average of about 350,000 people per month, according to the report.

The Westchester Food Pantry alone served around 10,000 people between January and September this year – a 74% increase from the same period in 2021, Westchester Food Pantry officials reported on their website.

“Our customers received 110 tons of food, which equals 190,000 meals with a retail value of $1.3 million,” they said. “Each customer receives nearly $400 worth of groceries, every time they come to the pantry.”

Gaynor Hall, a spokesperson for the Food Depository, told WGN there “certainly is an increased need” for free food, especially as inflation remains stubbornly high.

USA Today reported on Nov. 1 that “the September Consumer Price Index showed a 21% annual increase for all foods,” including an almost 19% increase in the price of canned fruit, a 17% increase for uncooked poultry, including turkey, and a 32% increase for butter and margarine.

“What we’re hearing from our partners is that inflation and rising food prices are having a negative impact on the people we serve right now,” she said. “It means people and families are struggling to put food on the table.”

Hall said the food depot is spending “twice as much as we paid two years ago,” adding that they are “adapting their strategies” as much as they can.

To access the Food Depot map, visit: chicagosfoodbank.org/find-food/

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