LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — There are still many families suffering from food insecurity in the valley. Now, there’s a new “DigiMart” food pantry anyone can visit.
The Nevada Women’s Philanthropy granted Lutheran Social Services of Nevada (LSSNV) the money for the expansion. 8 News Now spoke with the executive directors of the nonprofit to get a first-hand look at the expansion.
“I told myself, ‘why should a person have to go through such difficulties to have access to necessities like bread, food, nutrition,’” said Armena Mkhitaryan, executive director of LSSNV.
A reality that hits close to home for many, just like Mkhitaryan.
She came up with the DigiMart concept. It’s a digital market that allows people to shop online for food they need while using the nonprofit’s onsite computers. They can pick it up from the food pantry the same day.
“When I was a teenager, I had to stand in line to buy bread. It would take me three to four hours as I would be out in the winter cold,” she said.
Tuesday afternoon, a ribbon cutting took place for their new 3,000-square-foot food pantry with a walk-in cooler and freezer. The expansion enables them to store more food and reach more people in need.
“To qualify for our services, especially our DigiMart, you don’t have to be Lutheran, you don’t even have to have faith, you just need to have a need,” said Derrick Felder, LSSNV assistant executive director.
The idea started in 2016, and today’s process has cut waiting times down from a couple of hours to 15 minutes per person, allowing people to get their food in a timely manner.
“We had a 750-square-foot food pantry before, and it was very hard for us to manage the process, especially with the pandemic. In the first few weeks, we had about a 400% increase in the number of people we serve. The opportunity to have a very large facility for our food storage is really helpful now,” said Mkhitaryan.
DigiMart is based on a point system, where the healthier food items available are worth less points, so the incentive to eat clean is more prevalent, and you can stock up on more items.
Those interested can go in, sign up in the system and get started placing and receiving their order, all in one day. Due to the pandemic, the organization is using the drive thru walk-up method, with the hopes of going back to digital soon.