Pilot Program Use Cellphones To Connect People In Need With A Hot Meal

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FAYETTEVILLE (KSFM) -- 7hills Homeless Shelter will be the testing grounds for a new program that will help give people who are food insecure access to a hot meal.

In Northwest Arkansas, getting access to a meal can be a challenge, said Stephanie Reagan, who has been homeless for the last several years. A full day of work or several doctors appointments can mean missing out on a free meal.

"A lot of times with the churches and stuff, they feed between 11:30 and 12 p.m.," Reagan said. "If I have a doctor's appointment at 9:00 in the morning, I'm not going to make it back in town by 11:30 or 12:00."

Reagan said there have been days where she's had crackers and peanut butter for dinner after missing traditional meal times at various organizations.

Hunger: Not Impossible is trying to change that, said Erika Suhr, project manager for the pilot program.

"People traditionally go to food banks and they rely on these different resources to be able to get a meal, and the problem is, if you're un-sheltered, you don't have anywhere to prepare that meal," Suhr said. "If you're going to a church or a nonprofit organization to get a hot meal, that takes time out of your day to be able to do that."

Hunger: Not Impossible responded by setting up a way for clients, who are either homeless or food insecure, to use cellphones to text a number to request a meal.

Most homeless people already own a cellphone through some government programs, said Solomon Burchfield, director of the 7hills Homeless Center.

The system, which was set up with the help of Walmart and a few of its technology partners, will respond to Hunger: Not Impossible clients with a list of three nearby restaurants they may chose from. An order will be placed and the client will then pick it up.

About 60 people from the 7hills Homeless Center have been chosen to take part in the pilot program, which will run Nov. 26 to Dec. 23. They will be offered one meal per day.

The program's success depends on donations. Suhr said people can help by donating a meal either by texting "Donate" to 70175 or visiting the Hunger: Not Impossible website.

"It means that we have one more tool to give to our clients who are struggling," Burchfield said. "A tool they can use to get through the day more efficiently and ultimately make their life better."

Reagan said she understands some people may be skeptical about the program, but added that there are homeless people who work hard and would benefit from this service.

"There are a lot of campers that are out there, homeless people who actually do work. Sometimes it's 14 hours a day," Reagan said. "This will be great because sometimes they don't have time for breakfast and sometimes they don't have enough for lunch."

1 Comment

  • Benny Hill

    Working full time, living in a shelter for free, eating at a food bank for free, and still can’t afford to pay for a missed meal once in awhile? These people are running quite the racket.

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