JCC Klein to launch touch screen for food pantry


Cli­ents of the Mitzvah Food Pro­ject pantry at the Klein branch of the Jew­ish Com­munity Cen­ter next year will be able to touch a com­puter screen to get not only healthy servings of food from the pantry, but a lot of choice, too.

Where many char­it­able food sup­pli­ers hand out identic­al pre-as­sembled food pack­ages, the “Choice Food Pro­gram” will provide the needi­est mem­bers of the North­east’s Jew­ish com­munity as well as the com­munity at large with food that is se­lec­ted based on their own pref­er­ences and di­et­ary re­stric­tions.

“It will be a first in the city,” said Dris­ana Dav­is, Mitzvah Food Pro­ject man­ager for the Jew­ish Fed­er­a­tion of Great­er Phil­adelphia.

The idea is not only to give people what they want and what they need, but also to cut waste, Dav­is said.

Work on trans­form­ing the JCC’s cur­rent pantry in­to the new com­puter-aided food pro­gram began last week with the ce­re­mo­ni­al smash­ing of an old rac­quet­ball court in the cen­ter on Jam­is­on Av­en­ue. Of­fices to serve the new pantry are go­ing in­to the old two-story court.

“We will know what the com­munity is look­ing for and how we can al­loc­ate re­sources,” said Roy Neff, the swing­er of the ce­re­mo­ni­al sledge­ham­mer and chair­man of the fed­er­a­tion’s in­vest­ment com­mit­tee.

Neff and his wife, Lyn, chair­wo­man of the fed­er­a­tion’s Cen­ter for So­cial Re­spons­ib­il­ity, re­searched meth­ods for re­struc­tur­ing the fed­er­a­tion’s food pro­grams.

Last week’s ce­re­mony was the cul­min­a­tion of “many years and many miles” of work, said Lyn Neff, who was all smiles.

“For me, this is bet­ter than an Oscar,” she said.

Dav­is said the “North­east has a large pop­u­la­tion of low-in­come Jew­ish house­holds, and low-in­come house­holds in gen­er­al.”

The pantry at the JCC cur­rently serves about 1,000 in­di­vidu­als, and the fed­er­a­tion is hop­ing to double that, Dav­is said.

Most of the re­gion’s im­pov­er­ished Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion that needs a “safety net of provid­ing agen­cies,” live in the ZIP codes around the JCC in Somer­ton, ac­cord­ing to a 2009 Jew­ish Fed­er­a­tion food sur­vey.

When the re­mod­el­ing and pantry are re­or­gan­ized by 2013, the “Choice Food Pro­gram’s” cli­ents will be able to use their per­son­al swipe cards and touch-screen com­puters to se­lect the food they prefer, Dav­is said, and the pantry’s soft­ware, modeled after one used by a Brook­lyn, N.Y., char­ity, St. John’s Bread and Life, will be able to track in­di­vidu­al cli­ents’ nu­tri­tion­al needs and pref­er­ences.

For ex­ample, food choices will be filtered for cli­ents who are dia­bet­ics or who have high blood pres­sure.

That in­form­a­tion will al­low the pantry’s vo­lun­teers to provide fresh foods, too, Dav­is said, and more ef­fi­ciently re­order food.

Giv­ing all cli­ents identic­al food pack­ages is waste­ful, the fed­er­a­tion said in a news re­lease, be­cause not every­one likes is or able to eat the same things, which means some foods are dis­carded.

The pantry will provide the equi­val­ent of a half-week’s meals, us­ing U.S. De­part­ment of Ag­ri­cul­ture nu­tri­tion­al stand­ards, she said.

Walk-in hours at the JCC pantry will be ex­pan­ded from four per week to 16 per week. ••End­Frag­ment 

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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