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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    New Model for Food Assistance Taps Tech to Feed Hungry People

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Vegan, gluten-free, keto. A new approach to food assistance might just allow poor people to eat like everyone else?


    Caption: Image: CC BY 2.0--meccameg

    Celiac.com 09/04/2019 - There's often a good deal of stigma and sometimes logistical difficulty attached to getting meal assistance from food banks and soup kitchens. What if people who need food and meal assistance could get help that looked less like the familiar food pantries and soup kitchens, and more like the trendy food delivery services and pop-up eateries favored by the young and hip? 

    Traditional food banks typically offer canned or shelf-stable foods, or serve as working soup kitchens. However, technology is changing the way Americans eat, from fresher foods, to custom food delivery, to pop-up kitchens. More and more, food banks are building, or partnering with, commercial kitchens to produce prepared food and finished meals.

    Turns out that model of food personalization is as popular with low-income and food-insecure people as it is with millennials. Now, a group of food assistance providers are looking to harness technology to find new ways to feed people in need, offering pilot programs aimed at helping many of the more than 200 food banks in the national Feeding America network to make that model a reality.

    Imagine gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, or keto, in addition to other foods prepared with love. Think take-out and delivery, like Grubhub and DoorDash and Uber Eats.

    Many food assistance services are now asking the question: "How do we get food to homes in a different way?" said Thomas Mantz, the executive director of Feeding Tampa Bay. "For some, it will be a banana box filled with food, for others it will be a bag of groceries, for some it will be a sit-down meal, for some it will be a take-home meal and, eventually, it will be food delivery."

    Feeding Tampa Bay tested a program over the summer that used roadside signs to reach potentially hungry citizens. Planted in low-income neighborhoods, the signs read: "If you need a free meal, text this number." 

    People who signed up were directed to the time and place to pick up meals from the organization's food truck. The first effort netted 50 sign-ups, with 30 people showing up to collect meals at the Feeding Tampa Bay food truck. The second time, they saw 80 sign-up, with 60 people picking up meals. The last time, over 100 people signed up and nearly 70 picked up meals. 

    A survey of food recipients showed that more than half would never go to a food bank, because it conflicts with their self-image. The survey also showed that most people who need food assistance need it now, not later. They don't need a box for the week, they need a meal now.

    Feeding Tampa Bay will try another pilot program with Trinity Cafe, a long-standing free restaurant in Tampa. 

    "We've tested the model, and it works," Mantz said. "We've had a theory that working families are the ones really struggling and who would want this. Most of these folks are part of our economy, they have jobs and homes. They're us. They want to consume food in the same ways, and they want it to be a dignified process."

    Feeding Tampa Bay is testing food pantries in schools, and hopes to offer prepared meals for recipients to take home. The organization is also looking to put food pantries in hospitals. The hospital pantries will offer prepared takeaway meals aimed at specific health concerns and dietary restrictions, such as gluten-free, low-carb, kosher, vegan, vegetarian, and more.

    Read more at sfgate.com

     


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    >.< the gluten free part is a joke on these unless that unit/kitchen is dedicated to only gluten free.

    But I have dreamed of opening a food truck that was paleo and dedicated gluten free, and seeing about working with the community for free meals and soup kitchens with it at a set interval depending on funds and ingredient donations with plans to work with the local churches and grocery stores.  Never got the funding for it.

    Figure I will be building out a new commissary in the next 10 years so I can do the meal delivery with a local delivery service again pending funding. Who knows might see about doing the free meal thing once that is going. 

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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