Thanks to two UW-Madison students, The River Food Pantry has installed 10 outdoor lockers to fill with free food for anyone to access outside of pantry distribution hours.
Funding for the new food locker program, called Food NOW (Nights or Weekends), was awarded to UW undergraduate students, Akshay Kalra and Samantha Angelina, through the 2022–2023 Wisconsin Idea Fellowship Program. Akshay and Samantha’s goal with this program is to meet the community-identified need for an after-hours food distribution system in Madison.
“We are so grateful to Akshay, Samantha, and the Wisconsin Idea Fellowship Program for helping us provide this highly requested service,” said Rhonda Adams, Executive Director of The River. “We know that our neighbors facing food insecurity cannot always visit during our distribution hours. By providing a free 24/7 emergency food supply, Food NOW will increase convenience for community members to access enough food to get through the night or weekend until we are open again.”
Food NOW is meant to provide immediate emergency food support when access to The River’s other services is unavailable. Each locker contains a short-term supply of shelf-stable foods at no cost. To open a locker, users must scan a QR code to complete an online form, which will provide an email with the locker combination.
Anyone is welcome to utilize Food NOW—it is not necessary to be an existing client of The River. Users can access one locker within 24 hours. Once emptied by the previous user, lockers will be restocked by volunteers and staff Monday–Friday.
“As a part of the broader Madison community, we were excited at the opportunity to work alongside The River, an organization we know is extremely hardworking and dedicated to the broader issue of food justice. This project is a small way for us to support The River as well as show our peers at UW the importance of getting involved in the community,” said Samantha and Akshay. “We’re extremely grateful to The River for all of their expertise and guidance throughout this process and we can’t wait to see how Food NOW grows in the future.”
Learn more here.
About The River Food Pantry
The River is South Central Wisconsin’s busiest food pantry. Services include free groceries and freshly prepared meals for pickup or delivery, online grocery orders, and mobile meals. The River also redistributes rescued food and resources to local partners to increase access while minimizing waste. Since 2006, The River has grown to serve over 2,500 people every week in pursuit of its vision: a fully nourished community.