Working to End Hunger through Client Choice and Dignity: St. John’s Bread & Life Digital Food Pantry
Barrett Brenton, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Recently, emergency food service providers have been working to end hunger through the development of new food distribution models. A key component of this transition has been the need to integrate client choice models that provide a normative shopping experience and supermarket environment that is sensitive to their dignity. St. John’s Bread & Life located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community of Central Brooklyn has responded to this challenge by creating an innovative model that utilizes a digital choice food pantry system. In 2009 alone Bread & Life saw a 50% increase in the number of food pantry meals distributed. The organization has worked to develop a swipe-card and computer touch-screen shopping system that is integrated with software that supports the tracking of client usage. Clients are given points based on their individual and familial needs. A unique aspect of this system is that the less healthy a food item is the more points are deducted from their account. Vice versa if food items are healthier fewer points are used and more of these items can be obtained. This component of the program encourages more nutritious eating. This paper will present a preliminary analysis of usage data by Bread & Life clients. This work is part of a St. John’s University community-based research project in partnership with Bread & Life. Aggregate data on client demographics and access, incorporating the use of GIS, will be presented. Specific attention will be giving to food choices made by clients and the development of cohorts that are targeted for access to specific foods items. For example, access to low sodium foods for clients with hypertension. A vital part of this endeavor is the integration of community stakeholders into the analysis and decision making process. This is an ongoing project with the primary objective of creating a sustainable and integral model of development that can best serve this community both effectively and with dignity.