The WellSpan Spotlight

Diet and nutrition

New online food pantry helps address York County food insecurity

New online food pantry helps address York County food insecurity

A new online program in York County aims to give food bank clients more choices in a convenient way.

While still in its pilot phase, My Online Hunger-Free Pantry Project got a jumpstart with an Imagine Grant from WellSpan Health. It introduces an online ordering tool for clients that also allows the York County Food Bank to expand its reach, engage more community partners, and provide a better customer experience.

The project connects more people with food pantry services through outreach to regions with limited resources. Many local agencies have limited hours of operation with minimal capacity to address the increasing local need, explained Zach Wolgemuth, director of programs with the York County Food Bank.

The online program is convenient, takes just minutes to complete, is offered in two dozen languages, and is discreet. Clients can place orders any time of day or night.

"The tool allows clients to shop for the products they need rather than receiving a box of food that may contain foods they do not eat, do not meet their dietary needs, or are not culturally appropriate," he said.

MyPlate dietary guidelines through the U.S. Department of Agriculture are also incorporated to help guide clients into making nutritionally balanced choices when they order their food.

In addition, when they pick up their food from the pantry, clients also have the option of obtaining any other food items they need, like produce and dairy products, from inside the pantry, Wolgemuth added.

In York County, one in nine people struggled with food insecurity last year. With the help of community partners like WellSpan, the food bank distributed 2.1 million healthy meals to seniors, families, and individuals throughout the county. So far this year, that number has improved to one in 13 people who are food insecure in York County, Wolgemuth said.

"The online pantry project is another way to help address food insecurity in our region and aligns with WellSpan's mission to create healthier communities," said Stephanie Voight, WellSpan director of Community Health.

Through participation in the food pantry, clients may also take advantage of other programs that aid in their road to better health and self-sufficiency, she explained.

They include:

  • Women Infants and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and other community-wide programs.
  • Preventive health care services at WellSpan such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and routine well visits.
  • Improved management of chronic conditions.

Future plans for the online food pantry

With a goal of reaching 2,500 households over the next three years, the York County Food Bank has plans to refine the ordering, fulfillment, and distribution processes. This includes increasing the number of online pick-up locations to make the service more accessible to individuals with transportation barriers.

"We plan to roll this out incrementally in certain communities that currently have limited access to traditional food pantries," Wolgemuth said, adding that the food bank aims to fulfill up to 30,000 online orders during the three-year period.

To learn more about My Online Hunger-Free Pantry Project, visit the York County Food Pantry Bank