Dane County Food Access Improving with Online Ordering from The River Food Pantry | The River Food Pantry
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The River Food Pantry’s volunteer, Peg, uses a checklist to fill a cart with specific food items, including produce, dairy, bread, meat, pet food, and toilet paper, that a client ordered online through ePantry.

MADISON, Wis. — December 9, 2021 — People facing food insecurity in Dane County now have better access to the food they want and need through The River Food Pantry’s free online ordering system, called ePantry.

“I really appreciate being able to choose items that I know I will use,” said an ePantry client. “I also like the variety of items that are available to choose from. It gives me a chance to try new items and choose the quantity of items I want.”

Once a month, households have the option to order their groceries online at The River. Since opening in August, ePantry has processed over 450 online orders, which have provided a total of 35,000 pounds of food and personal care items for 1,200 people in Dane County. Each week, ePantry currently receives 20–60 orders.

“We launched ePantry to not only increase access to healthy food in Dane County, but to also restore client choice, which was initially taken away by the pandemic,” said Rhonda Adams, Executive Director of The River. “An online ordering option empowers households to choose their own groceries again, which gives people a sense of dignity and control and limits waste.”

Based on household size, families select from a variety of nutritious food and personal care items, including fresh produce, meat, dairy, culturally relevant offerings, special dietary options, such as vegetarian and gluten-free items.

Michelle Kowaletti, ePantry Coordinator, organizes completed ePantry orders in preparation for distribution to clients.

“I keep ePantry stocked with about 140 different items each week. I always make sure to offer at least 10 different types of fruits and vegetables, as well as at least one meat alternative,” said Michelle Kowaletti, ePantry Coordinator of The River. “The most popular items are produce, cleaning products, cooking oil and meat.”

Designated pick-up times are available Wednesday through Friday. Clients who are homebound can access ePantry and have their groceries delivered through River Delivers, a free delivery service to those who are unable to visit the pantry.

“We’ve entered a new chapter at The River where people in need can order their groceries from their computer or mobile phone and have them all delivered for free,” Adams said. “Our community is a better place for all when everyone can choose the food they want and how they want to receive it.”

New and existing clients of The River are welcome to sign up for ePantry. To qualify, participants must live in Dane County, meet TEFAP eligibility and income guidelines, and verify address and household member information, including names and birthdates. To get started, visit riverfoodpantry.org/epantry.

“We are continuously making improvements to ePantry based on regular client feedback, such as changing pickup hours for more convenience,” Kowaletti said. “We are also brainstorming ideas to make ePantry accessible to all—not just those with internet access.”

Volunteers are needed to pack boxes of custom orders, stock shelves and assist with distribution. Sign up to volunteer with ePantry at riverfoodpantry.org/volunteer/with-epantry.

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About The River Food Pantry
The River Food Pantry, serving over 1,000 diverse households each week, is South Central Wisconsin’s busiest food pantry. Our services include free groceries for curbside pickup or delivery, online orders, freshly prepared to-go meals, and mobile lunches for children and adults in low-income neighborhoods. Since opening in 2006, our vision has always been to achieve a fully nourished community.

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Becca Carpenter
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