Avoiding the Stigma (And the Line) at Your Local Food Pantry

by Alexina Cather, MPH

Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series

Name: Plentiful

What they do: Plentiful is an app that makes food pantry donations more efficient for both pantries and recipients. The free, easy-to-use reservation system allows people to register and check in at food pantries using their phones, significantly reducing wait times and easing the process for food providers. The app also allows pantries to send out mass texts if there is a change to their normal schedule or if there is information they need to get to their clients. As of November 2018, 200 pantries had joined the platform, providing more than 800,000 pantry meals to 240,000 clients. Across the US, more than 40 million people visit a charitable food provider each year, often waiting in long lines for service. Plentiful eliminates lines, increases control, and restores dignity to families in need, while providing better information to the pantries, such as how many clients to expect at a given time.

How they do it: The app, which works in multiple languages on either Android phones or any SMS-capable phone, allows clients to make appointments and sends them reminders to come to a food pantry at a specific time. The food pantry can also make appointments for clients. Those who don’t have a phone can still take a walk-in slot–but because the  rest of the line has been eliminated, the wait for those without an appointment is much shorter than it had been in the past. The app was created by the New York City Food Assistance Collaborative, a mix of private and public groups that include the NYC Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, City Harvest and the United Way of New York City. It was initially funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Mission: To provide dignity and improve efficiency at food pantries.

Latest project/campaign: N/A

Major Funding: Helmsley Charitable Trust

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Budget: N/A

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food
system: The app has allowed providers to do away with filling out time-consuming paper records about recipients and the amount of food distributed. All they need to do now is enter the person’s name and phone number in the system, and their profile comes up.


Location: N/A

Core Programs:

A feature to collect data on the population the app serves: The app collects only limited
information, such as the client’s name, age, zip-code, and when they check in to pick up their food. But it’s enough for hunger organizations to begin to discover larger patterns and adjust their systems to become more efficient. The app can also identify how far people are traveling for food and whether some neighborhoods need more pantries.

Number of staff: 2

Number of volunteers: N/A

Areas served: Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens

Year Started: 2016

Director: Bryan Moran

Contact Information: info@plentifulapp.com

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