The Thierer Family Foundation, an organization that helps nonprofits become more impactful through technology, announced on Oct. 25 that the Vivery platform is now available to all U.S. food banks and pantries.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository has been utilizing the platform for roughly a year and is reporting significant progress, Crain’s Chicago Business reported. The report comes during a holiday season marked by rising food costs and economic uncertainty, prompting skyrocketing demand for local pantries.
The Vivery online platform is designed “to help people in their communities easily find and access the right food, social programs, and services nearby in the ongoing battle against food insecurity,” Thierer officials stated in a press release. Thierer developed Vivery in partnership with the Food Depository in 2020.
Anyone looking for a food bank or pantry that’s within the Greater Chicago Food Depository network can visit chicago foodbank.org, where they’ll be directed to an interactive map of locations. A recent search for food banks and pantries within five miles of Austin produced 85 results.
“Most people searching for food assistance start online,” Thierer officials stated. “Yet food banks and pantries often lack the resources to sufficiently create and maintain an accurate online presence, or use outdated search tools limited to a simple zip code or address search. Current search tools may point users to the nearest food provider, but not necessarily to the community program or resource that best fits their needs.”
A screenshot of the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s interactive map for finding free groceries or a hot meal at a food pantry, soup kitchen, shelter or mobile distribution in Chicago and Cook County.
Food Depository officials said that since replacing their old tool with Vivery more than a year ago, they’ve seen an increase in engagement. The platform features an improved food finder map, better search filters, a Spanish language search and improved analytics, they said.
“By centering on the end user experience and having an intentional focus on analytics, we can be more responsive to the needs of our community,” said Andy Seikel, the head of Technology and Transformation for the Food Depository.
“After seeing the improvements first-hand, Vivery is that rare combination of using tech for good that is well-positioned to help food banks and pantries really move the needle to end hunger nationwide,” he said.
According to the Food Depository’s 2022 status report, 16% of Chicago area households were food insecure early this year and 22% of all households with children facing food insecurity. The Food Depository’s network of more than 700 food pantries, shelters and soup pantries served an average of roughly 350,000 people a month, the report showed.
The Westchester Food Pantry alone served about 10,000 people between January and September this year — a 74% increase over the same period in 2021, Westchester Food Pantry officials reported on their website.
“Our clients were provided with 110 tons of food, which equates to 190,000 meals at a retail value of $1.3 million,” they said. “Each client receives nearly $400 worth of groceries, every time they come to the Pantry.”
Gaynor Hall, a spokesperson for the Food Depository, told WGN that there “is definitely an increased need” for free food, particularly as inflation remains stubbornly high.
USA Today reported on Nov. 1 that “September’s consumer price index showed a 21% annual increase in all foods,” including a nearly 19% increase in the price of canned fruits, a 17% increase for uncooked poultry, including turkey, and a 32% increase for butter and margarine.
“What we’re hearing from our partners is that inflation and rising food prices are having a negative impact on the people we serve right now,” she said. “That means people and families are struggling to get food on the table.”
Hall said the Food Depository is spending “twice as much as what we paid two years ago,” adding that they’re “adapting their strategies” as much as they can.
To access the Food Depository’s map, visit: chicagosfoodbank.org/find-food/