Harford Community Action Agency implements software to help food pantry users make healthy choices

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A Harford Community Action Agency staff member demonstrates SmartChoice, a new food pantry software that places an order with the agency’s food pantry. (Photo Courtesy of Harford Community Action Agency)

Harford Community Action Agency is the first food pantry in the state to use a software brand that manages inventory and assists pantry users in making healthy choices. Here are the details provided:

Harford Community Action Agency Implements New Food Pantry Program

SmartChoice software provides digital ordering, inventory management so clients can make their own choices at the food pantry

Edgewood, Md., April 9, 2018 — Harford Community Action Agency has implemented a new software program for digital ordering and inventory management of its food pantry.

SmartChoice, a food pantry software, provides easy-to-use touch screen ordering for clients while also maintaining real time inventory management. Harford Community Action Agency is the first food pantry in Maryland to use SmartChoice.

Prior to the installation of SmartChoice, clients who came to Harford Community Action Agency’s food pantry were allowed one visit per month and received pre-packaged food without any feedback from the recipient on likes, dislikes or allergies.

Now when a client arrives at Harford Community Action Agency, he/she goes to one of the SmartChoice kiosks in lobby and signs in. Clients receive a number of points to spend each month (depending upon the size of the family) and now have the ability to pick what they like and will use, rather than someone else making assumptions about what they may or may not like or use. The software indicates exactly what is in the pantry so clients can pick and choose among items currently in stock.

The software encourages clients to make choices based on the food pyramid. More nutritious foods, like fresh vegetables and not canned, cost less points. If clients have points left after a visit, they are welcome to come back within the month to use them to purchase other food.

In addition, the SmartChoice kiosk screen includes recipes, helpful information from Healthy Harford and also a button to push to contact a case manager, if needed.

“SmartChoice helps us make our clients more self-sufficient by having a say in the food they receive,” said Pamela J. Craig, executive director of Harford Community Action Agency. “Clients pick exactly what they want because they know it’s in stock. SmartChoice encourages our clients to make healthy selections when choosing food for their families. We want to provide a hand up–and not just a hand out–to those in need in our community.”
The SmartChoice program was established thanks to grants from the State of Maryland, Department of Housing and Community Development and the Local Management Board. In addition, the Dresher Foundation provided a grant for a small, mobile refrigerator that can be used as needed in various areas of the food pantry.

During the last fiscal year, Harford Community Action Agency served more than 30,000 Harford County residents, including single parents, young families, senior couples and working professionals. The agency’s food bank (which serves 121 local organizations) and food pantry together distributed nearly 630,000 pounds of food to Harford Countians in 2017.

Harford Community Action Agency supports and encourages individuals and families on their paths to self-sufficiency. To make a donation or for more information, visit harfordcaa.org.