By Christine Bryant
Lutheran Social Services Food Pantries is embracing technology in an effort to serve more Westside residents and enhance convenience.
Currently, LSS Food Pantries is transitioning its storefront pantries to an online ordering and mobile pick-up system.
“Clients can now visit an online ordering system, order the food they need each month and make an appointment to pick up their order at one of the three westside locations,” said Jennifer Hamilton, director of communications for Lutheran Social Services.
The pick-up sites are located at Columbus Recreation Centers, with Westside locations at the Westgate Community Center, 455 S. Westgate Ave.; the Glenwood Community Center, 1888 S. Fairmont Ave.; and the Dodge Community Center, 667 Sullivant Ave.
The new system, now in operation for the Westside pick-up spots, allows clients to order the food they need using points based on their family size, Hamilton said.
“This change was made to ensure LSS can sustain services into the future, and to maximize access, increase choice and improve convenience for clients,” she said. “With the savings we gain from reducing fixed costs such as rent, utilities and insurance, we will be able to put more money toward food.”
The new system also decreases wait times for clients, Hamilton said.
“We serve about 7,000 clients a month on the westside,” she said. “Through our food pantry system, we serve around 22,000 people a month, and annually provide 2.2 million meals to hungry families.”
Just like at the storefront pantries, clients self-declare that they meet income guidelines, which is 200 percent of the poverty level and set by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Once clients log in to the system, they are able to shop for shelf-stable items, Hamilton said.
“The perishable items, produce, meat and bread, will be at the distribution site and they will be able to choose what they’d like from those at that time,” she said.
In addition to convenience, Hamilton says clients will have more choices.
“The amount of food you receive is based on the number of people in your family,” she said. “It used to be that you had a certain number of points per food group. Now you may use your points however you wish.”
LSS Food Pantries still places an emphasis on making healthier choices, however, by making less healthier options cost more points.
If someone does not have the ability to order online, that client can call the help desk at 1-877-LSS-MEAL and a volunteer can place an order for the resident, Hamilton said.
The client online ordering system can be found at lssfoodpantries.org.