A young woman stands by a sign in front of a brick building.

A food pantry without walls

We discovered there are a lot of seniors who don't know where their next meal is coming from.

How do you serve hungry people who cannot get to a food pantry? The Open Link Executive Director Stu Bush has long asked that question and thanks to some ingenuity he has a solution:  bring the pantry to them.

Food Pantry Without Walls is a pilot program to deliver food to residents of the Upper Perkiomen Manor, a subsidized senior living facility for low-income seniors in Red Hill, PA. Some seniors have mobility issues, others do not have transportation and public transportation is scarce in this more rural area of Montgomery County. Additionally, the stigma of going into a food pantry likely keeps some seniors from visiting The Open Link’s pantry in nearby Pennsburg.

Each month, staff and volunteers assist about 20 households with ordering food online and volunteers spend the morning and early afternoon packing up orders for a mid-afternoon delivery to the housing complex.

Before it could start this pilot, however, The Open Link needed infrastructure support. We awarded The Open Link a grant of $15,000 in November 2017 to purchase SmartChoice, software that tracks their pantry’s inventory. It also the ability for others to order food remotely. Once the software was installed and tested, The Open Link worked with the Upper Perkiomen Manor and its residents on how to order food.

Manna on Main Street started a similar hub delivery model project with Advanced Living Communities’ Schwenckfeld Manor that was profiled in a January 2019 Philadelphia Inquirer article.

In December 2018, we awarded a $50,000 Innovation Lab grant to the MontCo Anti-Hunger Network, in part to learn how each of these pilot projects can further reduce barriers and collaborate with outside partners – such as senior living facilities – to ensure more people in need receive nutritious food.

The Open Link plans to expand the Food Pantry Without Walls program to other area organizations that serve seniors and additional locations to begin to remotely serve families with school aged children.

Learn more!

Watch this four-minute video produced by The Open Link about Food Pantry Without Walls, featuring their Nutrition Services Coordinator Brooke Harvey.