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New Food Pantry in NE Philadelphia Takes a High-Tech Approach

(Roy Neff taking part in a "wallbreaking" ceremony at the Klein JCC in NE Philadelphia.  Roy and his wife Lyn spearheaded the effort to create the new food pantry. Credit: Tim Jimenez)

(Roy Neff taking part in a “wallbreaking” ceremony at the Klein JCC in NE Philadelphia. Roy and his wife Lyn spearheaded the effort to create the new food pantry. Credit: Tim Jimenez)

Tim Jimenez Tim Jimenez
Tim Jimenez is a general assignment reporter at KYW Newsradio...
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By Tim Jimenez

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A food pantry in Northeast Philadelphia is going digital.

A groundbreaking ceremony — or wall breaking, actually — took place today at the Klein JCC, the first step in turning an old racquetball court into a new food pantry.

The project is taking place thanks to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, donors, and groups that include Philabundance.

“There will be an opportunity for people to order, through computers, fresh fruits and vegetables and meats, canned goods, and packaged food,” says Federation CEO Ira Schwartz.

It’s called the Food Choice Program. Low-income residents will get virtual vouchers, and the prices are skewed to encourage people to eat healthy.

“The lowest cost food is the more nutritious food,” Schwartz explains, “so the incentive is really for people to eat healthier foods.”

Homebound clients can order items by phone or computer and have it delivered.  Walk-in clients can use a touchscreen device to pick foods they want.

Schwartz says it’ll be more efficient than the current on-site pantry operation, and a model for other cities and countries.

He says they got a surprise after speaking with Israeli government officials about the program.

“The Knesset there voted to replicate this project even before we built it (here),” he says.

The project is set to be finished September 2013.