The Thierer Family Foundation is focused on increasing the impact of nonprofit organizations by helping them leverage technology to be more effective, efficient, and sustainable.
As part of our 2018 Impact Grant cycle, Lakeview Pantry came to us with the idea of developing an online ordering solution for food pantries – the first of its kind in Chicago. Their goal was to extend the reach of the pantry to those that couldn’t be served during the standard distribution times due to work or childcare challenges.
We quickly saw the potential of the solution and partnered with Lakeview Pantry to help fund and develop the solution. The Online Market launched in September 2019 (click here for ABC News clip of the launch) and has rapidly become a vital distribution model for working families.
At the time, we never could have imagined that a global pandemic would hit half a year later and completely change the way that pantries operate.
Suddenly, demand skyrocketed – between March 16 and June 13, Lakeview Pantry served about 57,000 individuals in 21,000 households across all of their programs. Their average weekly service increased from serving 1,200 people a week to serving over 6,000 people a week – a 400% increase.
Social distancing became a key component for safe food distribution. In an effort to keep clients and pantry staff safe, customer choice models were replaced by pre-packed boxes. Speed and efficiency of distribution became top priorities for pantries everywhere.
These shifts have made Lakeview Pantry’s Online Market distribution model more necessary than ever. The solution allows the Pantry to maintain a customer choice model for those with special dietary needs. By accepting orders ahead of distribution, it also allows the Pantry to better plan for inventory and manage what volunteers will be necessary to pack up the orders. Finally, with preset pickup times, clients can pull up and have volunteers place the boxes right in their cars.
The Lakeview Pantry team has been nimble and strategic in their ability to quickly pivot and scale up every aspect of their programming to meet the unprecedented need. Grants from Thierer Family Foundation and their fundraising efforts have enabled Lakeview to continue growing the Online Market. Today, Lakeview Pantry’s Online Market has served nearly 6,300 people through 2,750 households (pickups) and expanded their pickup windows to meet the increased need. Online Market also remains a safe option for those that have special dietary needs and need to choose their own groceries.
To learn more about Lakeview Pantry’s COVID-19 response and how you can support their work, check out their latest blog post: https://www.lakeviewpantry.org/covid-19-update-6-15-20/