With a new online ordering system, The Open Door's food pantries in Gloucester and Ipswich have expanded choices for their client shoppers. 

The Open Door has recently launched its online ordering system, dubbed SmartChoice, which allows clients to place weekly grocery orders that match any special dietary needs they may have as well as their tastes. 

“When people choose their own groceries, we know they’re getting the food they’ll eat and enjoy to thrive,” President and CEO Julie LaFontaine said. “We’re proud to have this new resource for our clients." 

Through the system, clients are able to select  items such as fruit and juices, vegetables, protein and dairy, ready-to-eat items, grains and cereal, baking, snacks, condiments, special dietary items, pet supplies, household supplies, health and hygiene products, baby food and supplies, and other miscellaneous items. 

Once clients place an order, noting their desired quantity of each item, their grocery list makes its way over to the Fulfillment Center at The Open Door where volunteers gather the staples to complete the grocery bag.

Prior to incorporating this online ordering system into the fabric of how the food pantry functions on a daily basis, The Open Door provided bags of pre-selected groceries for clients in response to the pandemic. The bags were delivered curbside and ended up helping the food pantry reach more people. 

At the height of the pandemic, The Open Door met a 40% increase in need for food resources. 

LaFontaine noted that while the curbside model was necessary to feed more people, it left shoppers with less of a personal choice. 

She said that during the pandemic, many people ordered their groceries online as a way to stay safe while shopping for necessary food items. 

"To offer that to our clients returns the power of choice and mirrors the way that we all get food," LaFontaine added.

Now, with the online and call by phone options available to clients, The Open Door has been giving out at least 40 orders a day for pick-up in Gloucester alone. It is also able to distribute 160 free meals a day Monday through Thursday and 320 free meals on Friday to those who are in need of fresh, healthy options. 

Clients are still able to pick up their groceries on site at 28 Emerson Ave. in Gloucester, or 00Southern Heights in Ipswich; or receive deliveries if they qualify for the organization's grocery and meal delivery program. 

Clients can order groceries once a week at https://www.foodpantry.org/order-now/

Translation services are available over the phone in many languages. Those without internet access, with questions, or who prefer to place their order by phone are also welcome to do so by calling 978-283-6776.

The Open Door serves residents of Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester, Essex, Ipswich, Hamilton, Wenham, Rowley, Boxford and Topsfield.

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford may be contacted at 978-675-2705, tbradford@gloucestertimes.com or on Twitter at TayBradford97.

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