Food Pantry 2.0: Larchmont Designer's New System Helps Hungry

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Dana Robertson, of Larchmont, has developed a state-of-the-art barcode system that registers and catalogues the 380 families from Larchmont and Mamaroneck who visit the Food Pantry.
Dana Robertson, of Larchmont, has developed a state-of-the-art barcode system that registers and catalogues the 380 families from Larchmont and Mamaroneck who visit the Food Pantry. Photo Credit: Contributed
Dana Robertson, of Larchmont, has developed a state-of-the-art barcode system that registers and catalogues the 380 families from Larchmont and Mamaroneck who visit the Food Pantry.
Dana Robertson, of Larchmont, has developed a state-of-the-art barcode system that registers and catalogues the 380 families from Larchmont and Mamaroneck who visit the Food Pantry. Photo Credit: Contributed

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- A Mamaroneck High School graduate is bringing the Larchmont/Mamaroneck Hunger Task Force Food Pantry into the 21st century. 

Dana Robertson, of Larchmont, has developed a state-of-the-art barcode system that registers and catalogues the 380 families from Larchmont and Mamaroneck who visit the Food Pantry. The labor-intensive process used to take several volunteers hours to catalogue, representatives said. The new system takes seconds. 

“We felt for a long time that in this age of computers our manual index card system was woefully out of date,” said Malcolm Frouman, a volunteer who supervises the Tuesday night distribution shift for the Pantry. “We saw a barcode system in operation at a larger local food pantry and realized that it was a big leap forward from what we were doing.”

Before the new system’s December launch, each time a client visited the Food Pantry he or she would give a name to a volunteer seated at the registration desk. The volunteer then pulled out an index card from a file
box, noted what size bag a client was entitled to, and obtained the client’s signature. The card was then put into a large stack, which a volunteer would alphabetize. Another volunteer updated an Excel sheet to see the statistics and another volunteer entered the statistics into a database used to track client usage and plan for future food needs, representatives said. 

“We thought we would need to hire someone to create a system like this for us, which would be costly,” Frouman said. “Then Dana Robertson, daughter of long-time Food Pantry volunteer Jill Robertson, stepped forward to help.”

Thanks to Robertson’s work, a client who visits the Food Pantry presents a laminated identification card imprinted with a barcode. A volunteer scans the barcode, which brings up a computer screen Century Technology to Helping the Hungry with the client’s details, which can be easily updated. The screen automatically updates the Food Pantry’s master database.

“It took about six weeks to get from the initial concept to the first trial,” Robertson said. “First, I took about three years worth of client information spreadsheets in Filemaker and organized them into a few easily accessible tables. Then, I created a simple graphical interface designed for ease of use for the volunteers, with the complicated data in the background. Finally, we conducted three testing sessions, which were vital to ensure that the system worked properly.”

To learn more, to volunteer, or to donate, residents can visit the Larchmont Mamaroneck Food Pantry website.

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