STATEN ISLAND, NY — Lemontree, a nonprofit organization, combines “the power of data with hospitality” to help people in the metropolitan areas of New York City and Philadelphia access their neighborhood food pantries.
During the pandemic, Lemontree observed two key problems people experiencing food insecurity faced during the pandemic. A stigma around lack of access to reliable, up-to-date information about nearby free food and acknowledgment of need for help.
Through Lemontree’s free-text helpline and online directory, clients can receive information about nearby free food resources and assistance services throughout the process.
Launched this July, Lemontree’s online directory includes information on more than 3,800 food pantries and food banks in five boroughs in the Northern New Jersey and Philadelphia areas, and later this year, in New Jersey. We plan to cover the South as well. A user can also sign up to text him reminders when a nearby food pantry is open.
“The database is the result of thousands of phone calls to validate information from over 50 different data sources,” explains Kasumi Quinlan, community manager at Lemontree. “So we combine all of these resources to determine which is the most accurate, and we review that detail regularly.We also enrich that data with feedback from our clients.”
Each entry in the directory includes opening hours, address, contact information, and the number of client referrals for that location. It also includes additional information such as recommended arrival times if you need to bring your own bag and requirements such as ID presentation.
“So if [clients] We are not interested in the helpline part where we still have access to the information we have,” added Quinlan.
Launched in 2020, the helpline provides a human touch that Lemon Tree believes will help reduce stigma and make people more likely to use resources.
“We first text them everything they need to know to get food in the neighborhood,” said the community manager. “Second, we meet them with empathy and warmth and humanity. And unfortunately that’s not always what you see in social welfare, especially in overworked and understaffed places.”
Quinlan said Lemontree served an estimated 1,500 clients in 2020 and an estimated 50,000 clients through its helpline in 2021. This year we are averaging 1,000 clients per week.
“Making people feel supported in this way, through text messages and the language they use, makes them more likely to access these resources and rely on us for anything they need in the future.” It also means that you can build deeper relationships with your clients and be more comfortable sharing feedback,” she said. “That feedback will help us improve our suggestions for our next client.”
Lemontree’s support extends beyond the food pantry. The organization’s food professionals can also help people sign up for government benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Those who want to support Lemontree can donate on the organization’s website. Lemontree also coordinates volunteer groups.
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