Code for Boston launches Pantry Pickup site

Photo via Greater Boston Food Bank
Credit: Greater Boston Food Bank

A local organization wants to make it easier to connect residents looking to donate food with local pantries.

This week, Code for Boston announced the release of version 1.0 of Pantry Pickup, a website that enables Metro Boston residents to find nearby food pantries “effortlessly and instantaneously.”

According to a Code for Boston spokesman, Pantry Pickup provides users with a map-based pantry finder with an extensive database of more than 500 pantries in the region.

“By simply entering their address, Boston-area residents can view the location, contact information and open hours of all food pantries in their area,” the organization said in a press release.

Pantry Pickup was conceived when Cambridge residents Kristen and Harlan Weber discovered that their pantry was full of unused black beans, tuna and canned vegetables, which they decided to donate to a nearby food pantry. While the Webers found a local pantry after some light web searching, they discovered that much of the information about pantries in their area was scattered across the Web. Knowing that 1 in 9 residents of Massachusetts is food insecure, according to the Greater Boston Food Bank, they decided to find a way to help.

Starting with data provided by the City of Boston and GBFB, Kristen, a food anthropologist, spent evenings, weekends and lunch breaks contacting hundreds of food pantries in Eastern and Central Massachusetts, from Worcester to the Cape. Each call added to a master list of pantries, complete with each pantry’s address and open hours. Harlan, a web designer and organizer of the Boston Code for America Brigade, pitched the idea of an online food pantry locator at the first annual National Day of Civic Hacking, a nationwide hackathon focused on building solutions for local communities in June 2013.

A team of Boston-area developers and designers led by Liam Morley and Sarah Laplante spent the hackathon building a demo version of Pantry Pickup, and has continued to pursue that development as Code for Boston volunteers for the last five months, leading to today’s release.

At present, the app lists pantries in Central and Eastern Massachusetts. Food pantries not presently listed can contact Pantry Pickup through the website to be added. Plans for future versions of the site include a simple inventory system which will allow pantries to communicate to potential donors which resources each pantry needs most.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorganFollow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS


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