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Strike a Chord: Brooklyn Food Pantry Ushers In Advanced Technology

Strike a Chord: Brooklyn Food Pantry Ushers In Advanced Technology
WFUV's Strike a Chord campaign is focusing on soup kitchens and food pantries.

Lucy's been homeless since 2010.

She's been jumping from house to house, shelter to shelter -- all while battling an illness that makes it unbearable for her to stand or walk for too long. She hasn't been able to go to a supermarket in years. 

That's why she comes to St. John's Bread and Life in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, where a basic touch-screen and computer system has made it easier for her to eat. 

Clients swipe into the system with an ID card. They're each allotted a certain number of points, which they can redeem for items in the pantry. Once clients "check out," their shopping carts are shot back through the computer to the pantry, where volunteers package their orders. Lucy said no other food pantry in the city is quite like it. 

"I'm more independent, absolutely," she said. "It's easier that way."

This touch-screen food pantry is just one way Bread and Life is changing the face of emergency food services. Executive Director Tony Butler thinks the advanced technology makes coming to Bread and Life not only a pleasant experience, but a proud one. 

"The dignity comes from it being a normative," he said. "The dignity comes from choice."

He said gone are the days when this particular image of soup kitchens and food pantries was the norm.

"Old men in fedoras, 1930s, Depression stuff," Butler said. "That is completely antithetical to what we do and why we do things. If you've ever received anything begrudgingly, you're not likely to really respect that person and trust them." 

The St. John's Bread and Life food pantry is open five days a week.


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