As Food Insecurity Escalates, Volunteers Help Slow Hunger’s Path in North Texas
What does it feel like to be unable to put food on your family’s table? Unfortunately, a growing number of Americans know the answer to this question. Today, one of every 10 people in the United States live with food insecurity — meaning that more than 30 million Americans are unsure if they’ll be able to feed themselves or their families on any given day.
The causes of food insecurity are as complex as they are varied. The pandemic only exacerbated the issue as it pushed more people into a place where they needed help. As thousands found themselves struggling with food insecurity for the first time, many faced an equally powerful struggle — the shame they may feel having to go to a food pantry.
Crossroads Community Services, a local food pantry, and distribution center based in Dallas with a mission to strengthen families by building nutrition-stable communities used this challenge to reimagine how they could offer a dignified experience to those they serve. Rather than simply adapting existing food systems, they asked themselves how they could innovate and use technology to support and grow a thriving community. With help from Salesforce pro bono volunteers and partner ArganoKeste, they found a way.
At A Crossroads
Crossroads is primarily a food pantry, but through food equity research, innovation, and distribution partnerships, they are revolutionizing food pantry services.
Rather than a pre-packaged box of food items, Crossroads’ unique in-house shopping experience allows families to select dry goods as well as fresh and frozen produce and proteins specific to their needs. As the pandemic surged, demand increased more than four times. On top of that, COVID protocols forced Crossroads to suspend the in-house shopping experience and fall back on providing pre-packaged boxes. Crossroads wanted to be able to resume the shopping experience and find a new way to serve the families of Southern Dallas County safely, efficiently, and with dignity.
We don’t want to stay in the business of selecting foods for our clients. We want them to have that particular dignified experience” Benaye Wadkins Chambers, President and CEO, Crossroads Community Services
Having used Salesforce pro bono programs in the past, Crossroads reached out again for support to create a touchless shopping experience. Paul Eaklor, an enterprise architect at Salesforce was one of several that accepted the call for help.
“I saw an opportunity to use my expertise to help Crossroads,” Eaklor said. “I knew what they were asking for, and how complex it would be to do it; I wanted to help them get there.”
Where Technology Meets Community
Around the same time as Salesforce volunteers got to work on a solution, Howard Moore, the CEO of ArganoKeste, reached out to Crossroads to ask where he and his organization could help.
Call it kismet, or community connection, but ArganoKeste also happens to be a Salesforce partner. With shared values of trust, innovation, and equality, the combined team from Crossroads, Salesforce, and ArganoKeste got to work on a mobile app.
The resulting solution from these combined efforts enables families to choose the foods they want based on their family size and health needs. Like so many others learned to do in the wake of the pandemic, now these thousands of families can shop safely online and schedule a grocery pickup for a touch-free and personalized experience.
“This collaboration streamlined operations for Crossroads at a critical time during the pandemic. Most importantly, it enabled constituents to save valuable time and effort in getting nutritious foods that meet their specific needs,” said Chambers. “We got the app done to the point that it was testing, and the results were amazing. We started with a small number and grew it. The first thing people said [to us] was ‘Thank you.’”
Food Services to Help and Heal a Community
The technology built through this partnership is much more than just a tool. It enables people to select foods based on their health needs, ensures the safety of their families, and with the data generated by the app, Crossroads can demonstrate the impact they have on their communities.
“My life has improved with this app.” says Francisca Zamago, a client at Crossroads, “It enables me to drop off my kids at school, and not come in and be in a long line when I have appointments. It’s a lot faster, a lot easier, and very user friendly.”
This app is a part of a long journey to change how we feed our communities.
This app and the continuation of our partnership is really singling out those areas that meet our clients needs, allowing them to order food that doesn’t just help them, but also heals them in the process” Benaye Wadkins Chambers, President and CEO, Crossroads Community Services
For more on the fight against hunger, check out the first Zero Hunger Summit
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