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New app leads users to food resources

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The Times-Leader

Monday, May 27, 2019

An app launched recently by the Pitt County Farm and Food Council to combat hunger and improve nutrition will help users access fresh food and quality meals that are affordable.

The Pitt County Food Finder provides information about food pantries, farmers markets, community gardens, hot meals and more, Doris Connell and Leigh Guth told members of the Winterville Town Council and the Grifton Board of Commissioners at meetings this month. It provide directions, hours of operation and other information.

“It benefits you,” said Guth, director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension service in Pitt County. “The city’s services are there, promoting agro-tourism, like Strawberries on 903 and Brock’s Berries. You have folks in need — pastors reaching out because a member is facing a food shortage — this app can send them to the nearest resource.”

The Pitt County Farm & Food Council was formed in July 2018 to address issues related to hunger and local agriculture. It is made up of 13 members representing farming, restaurants, health and business. Its goal is to address food insecurity, provide nutritional education and enhance agricultural economic development.

“When we started (the hunger awareness campaign), the council came into the communities to ask for input,” said Connell, a member of the council. “A lot of people said they didn’t know where to find things. They didn’t know where the farmers market was. People wanted a resource directory, but that’s very hard to keep updated. Someone has to manually make changes.”

Instead the council focused on creating an app, which Guth and Connell said is more accessible than a traditional directory and it can be more updated easily. The app helps users locate resources based the user’s physical location.

Users can search for resources closest to them or they can search eight categories: community services; services that offer hot meals; food and farming classes; community gardens; pantries that offer items to make meals; farms; volunteer/donation opportunities to helps users locate where they can volunteer or donate items; and farmers markets.

Once users find a resource, the app helps them navigate to the location.

“It’s a work in progress,” Connell said. “We don’t have everything in the app yet.”

One screen gives hours of operation and important information for every resource, including whether a vendor accepts the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) debit cards.

The council is visiting municipalities to introduce the app so local officials can share the news with residents. The app should be particularly useful in place like Grifton which recently saw the closure of its only grocery story.

“The grocery store closure is a real concern for us,” Connell said. “The app will help people find food, including local farms that sell directly to the public, nearby. ... If there’s anything you need the council to do, let us know. We have resources.”

The mobile app is available for download on both Apple and Android phones by searching app stores for “Pitt County Food Finder.”

For more information on the council or to find out more about the hunger awareness campaign, visit www.pittcountync.gov/FFC.

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