The country’s largest network of food banks, Feeding America, has introduced an online grocery ordering system for people seeking food assistance.
The platform — called Order Ahead — gives people a discreet and convenient way to click-and-collect groceries, reducing physical and social barriers that people facing food insecurity might endure, according to the Chicago-based organization.
The person using the platform can order food from a Feeding America network food bank or partner organization and pick it up at nearby community locations like schools, drive-thru distributions and libraries. Home delivery is an option as well in select markets.
Orders can be done over a smartphone, tablet or computer by signing up through Order Ahead.
“Having access to nutritious food is paramount in helping people live better. When someone has a difficult time accessing food, it’s important we help connect the dots,” said Maryann Byrdak, chief information officer at Feeding America. “Order Ahead is a tool that not only helps connect people to food assistance but does it in an efficient, convenient, and private way.”
Feeding America initiated a pilot of the program back in October 2020, it said. To date, 11 food banks and 18 distribution sites have provided food to over 4,000 households, reaching nearly 15,000 people. Altogether, more than 219,000 pounds of food have been distributed through more than 9,000 orders. Over the next year, Feeding America plans to expand the Order Ahead program to an additional 20 food banks.
Oftentimes, transportation, stigma, and time are reported as barriers that prevent individuals from seeking help. For people who are uncomfortable seeking food assistance, the platform offers a more private and discreet experience.