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New food lockers improve food pantry access


New food lockers allow for 24-hour food pantry access

New 24-hour access food lockers in Fayetteville will allow clients of the St. James Missionary Baptist Church food pantry to access food around the clock.

The lockers were formally dedicated yesterday. Monique Jones, St. James director of community and outreach, said the lockers are accessed with a code that unlocks one of twelve lockers.

"That’s refrigerated— I can turn that into a freezer or heat it in order to store food orders from individuals in the community, and they'll be able to come store their food with dignity and access,” Jones said.

Kyle Kellams
Monique Jones hold scissors to cut the ribbon on the new food lockers

The lockers were installed through a partnership of St. James, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Northwest Arkansas Food Insecurity Community of Practice.  The St. James food pantry will still be open Tuesdays and Thursdays and work with Doordash for deliveries.

Jones said the lockers will be able to help people who work during pantry or Doordash hours and allow clients to choose their food through an online ordering system:

“I want to empower our community to make their choice,” Jones said. “Before the pandemic, we had client choice. But we have so many people coming in that I wanted to empower them to be able to pick up their food and not have to come inside or get in line. I wanted to build a platform that served more individuals that were still suffering from food insecurity, and I'm telling you that this right here, this locker, will nourish communities for a long time to come.”

The lockers are operating with an initial grant from the Walmart Foundation. Jones said she’s already thinking about how an expanded locker program could help more people:

“I'd like to put one on the west side over by the Boys and Girls Club,” Jones said. “Do I have the funding? No. Can I apply for grants? Yes. But I want different people in different areas to be able to access food-- and even thinking rurally out in the Elkins area or even West Fork area. I have individuals driving in from that area to come and get food from the food pantry, so I'd love to set someone up out in a rural area.”

The lockers are at 115 S Willow in Fayetteville.

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Timothy Dennis is KUAF's strategic technical planner and producer for<i> Ozarks at Large.</i>
Kyle Kellams is KUAF's news director and host of Ozarks at Large.
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