More than 50 million people in America struggle to put food on the table, and one in six faces hunger. In Evansville, the Evansville Emergency Food Pantry Consortium (EEFPC) works to alleviate some of this hunger through the member food pantries.
The Need of the EEFPC
Keeping track of the various recipients of food pantry offerings, however, is a daunting task. In order to provide food to the maximum number of people each month, the pantries have used a system that tracks recipients of food pantry services through a voucher program. However, a significantly disproportionate amount of time and resources went toward the redemption and tracking of the voucher codes, and the food pantries sought a better way to serve the recipients of their services.
The EEFPC turned to Lieberman Technologies to help with the development and rollout of a volunteer-staffed call center to aid in the coordination of efforts among its member pantries. The system had to be simple, efficient, accurate, and cost-effective, allowing the EEFPC to track households served across all pantries in the group. It was also important that the system be structured for easy administration by volunteers, some of whom lack experience using technology. To minimize the amount of staffing necessary in the call center, it had to be possible to verify a voucher code without having to place a call into the call center. Having food pantry staff use a computer to verify a voucher code was also an unworkable solution since not all of the food pantries have a computer on site.
“We are able to help a greater number of people in need.”
Lieberman designed and developed a database solution that sits in the cloud. Volunteers in the call-center field calls from the referral sources and enter data on families in need. If the family is eligible, the system generates a voucher and code that the referral source gives to the family’s head of household. The head of household can take the voucher and code to any of the member food pantries. Helpers at the pantry use a telephone to call into an automated system to verify the code, including the size of the family (which determines the amount of food the family receives). The code then gets marked as used and cannot be used again.
Lieberman also installed the computers, the network, and trained staff on use of the system.
There are two important benefits with the new solution.
- More families can now be served because a single-use code eliminates duplicate trips to food pantries by the same client.
- EEFPC now has a more accurate record of families being served, which simplifies grant writing efforts.
The centralized system has comprehensive data on all of the families served by all of the member food pantries, and gives a clearer picture of the scope of food needs within Evansville.
By simplifying what was often a labor-intensive and inaccurate process, Lieberman Technologies allows the city’s food pantries to better coordinate efforts toward the alleviation of hunger in Evansville. Sister Jackie Kissel, OSB, EEFPC’s Call Center Manager, has seen the new system begin to expand the EEFPC’s reach in the Evansville community. “Our new tracking system has exceeded our expectations. We are able to reach out more expeditiously to help a greater number of people in need. It gives us an opportunity to furnish food to make nutritious meals to those families who need food. It also gives us a check and balance for those who want to take an unjust advantage of our food pantries.”
Indeed, the long-term effects of this improved system have the potential to enhance services across the board for all groups providing assistance in the Evansville area. EEFPC Administrator Sylvia Deters expects the improved data collection to benefit the EEFPC’s grant writing process: “The software Lieberman developed has enhanced our grant writing and accountability. It’s very easy to retrieve needed statistics.”
Through the use of technology, more families are being served by the EEFPC and more accurate information is collected, resulting in a clearer picture of those in need within the community.