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Chicago Food Pantries Leverage Technology to Eliminate Waste


A new app is connecting food pantries throughout Chicagoland to eliminate hunger and food waste. Provision, a web application that allows food pantries to exchange items when they face a surplus or deficit, will help serve the 800,000+ people of every race, background and neighborhood who suffer from food insecurity throughout the Chicago area.

“It’s a little-known problem, but one we face everyday: Food often goes to waste because we have too much of a perishable item and not enough demand for it. Or, on the flip side, we might need more protein, bread, canned goods, etc. when there’s just not enough to go around,” explains John Psiharis, Executive Director of Chicago’s Irving Park Food Pantry. “Food pantries don’t have access to expensive technologies that help streamline our work, but Provision has allowed us to reach a new level of efficiency. It’s an innovative—and greatly appreciated!—tool that lets us meet the needs of our families, while helping our neighboring organizations.”

Created by VSA, the digital inventory tool gives pantry managers the ability to find food they need or to give away food they don’t, and includes listing details such as expiration date, quantity, etc. Easy-to-find contact information for each item ensures direct communications between pantries to expedite and simplify the transfer process, connecting dozens of disparate pantries to create one, fully-stocked, fully-utilized city-wide pantry.

“This was a passion project that started with our people volunteering and noticing a big problem to solve,” said Bob Winter, Partner, Executive Creative Director at VSA. “We were inspired to create a simple tool to help make their jobs easier and make sure no food went to waste. So we took action under the objective ‘no rotten strawberries,’

The app is currently in beta testing with four of Chicagoland’s largest food pantries, and will continue to scale and be refined by VSA as more pantries begin to adopt it, with hopes of expanding to other cities throughout the US.