Whereas there are extra food pantries discovered throughout the US than there are McDonald’s places, it’s usually tough for these in want of those sources to search out the exact places of those nearest to them. One group, Lemontree, seeks to amend that situation in New York Metropolis.
In accordance with information collected by Lemontree, a majority of hungry People don’t entry the free meals accessible to them at close by meals pantries and soup kitchens. One primary cause for that is that they’re unaware of simply how shut they’re to them. Lemontree seeks to amend that situation by way of a tech-enabled nonprofit service that makes use of textual content messages to assist hungry residents put dinner on the desk.
“As increasingly more New Yorkers sift by way of gross sales and strategize the place they’ll store, nobody is hit more durable than our neighbors going through meals insecurity,” Kasumi Quinlan of Lemontree stated. “In New York Metropolis, most of us dwell inside strolling distance of meals pantries. Our textual content message helpline has already related over 30,000 folks to the perfect meals sources of their communities.”
Along with offering info as to what meals pantries are close to somebody, Lemontree additionally shares verified info on a pantry’s hours, the varieties of paperwork required to be served there, what sort of meals one can anticipate and extra.
“Our helpline is powered by an extremely complete dataset of meals sources synthesized from over 50 information sources and greater than 1,600 consumer opinions,” Quinlan stated. “We use their responses to always enhance our helpline. This suggestions loop helps us provide a deeper degree of service and our customers have the chance to be heard. From the second a consumer indicators up, they’re related with a hospitality specialist — an actual human — who treats them with heat and empathy to allow them to know we’ve their again.”
Lemontree was initially based in 2018 as a low-cost meal package supply nonprofit for households in Brooklyn. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the group pivoted to a volunteer initiative supporting meals pantries that have been susceptible to closing and later as a food helpline, launched in June 2020.
The group has lately launched a brand new means for Queens residents to browse on-line for native meals pantries. This new listing, discovered on foodhelpline.org, offers the places in addition to contact info and hours of operation for these providers.
Lemontree additionally helps to supply info on supply choices for meals and authorities advantages just like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Packages like SNAP are designed to supply help for folks in want who can’t afford meals. SNAP offers a month-to-month allowance for customers to buy groceries. Greater than 42 million People profit from SNAP.
Month-to-month SNAP advantages vary in month-to-month worth from as little as $16 to over $1,000. The month-to-month worth is set by the scale and earnings of a family. Advantages are obtained by way of an Electronics Advantages Switch card, which can be utilized like a debit card.
In accordance with Quinlan, the group has seen many instances the place a person may have their assist however may very well be too hesitant to ask. People who find themselves behind on their payments or budgeting much more rigorously as a result of inflation may also profit from Lemontree.
“Meals insecurity isn’t a defining issue or an identification — it’s one thing that any of us can slip into or out of,” Quinlan stated. “Possibly you solely want to go to a pantry as soon as to top off on some fundamentals. There’s no disgrace in getting this assist, and in all chance, your neighborhood desires to help you. We wish to present our neighbors that it’s okay to ask for assist.”
During the last 12 months, Lemontree has expanded its providers past New York Metropolis. The group quadrupled its quantity final 12 months and lately expanded its providers to Philadelphia and northern New Jersey.