Kinetic’s Food Insecurity Team is addressing hunger in the Berkshires. The Food Insecurity design phase began in the spring of 2013. Through field research and collaborative problem-solving, the team developed a pay it forward program for groceries based on “suspended coffees,” a system that allows patrons of coffee shops to order drinks and small food items for themselves, and then pre-pay, or suspend items for people in their community who have difficulty affording them. This concept began in Italy and spread across Europe during the Eurozone crisis and has recently been put in place in two locations on the West Coast. Kinetic’s Food Insecurity team was inspired by this empathetic, community-oriented concept of food support and adapted it for implementation in a grocery store setting.
After two semesters of research and planning, the team is now formalizing Kinetic’s partnership supermarkets in the Berkshire region. The Food Insecurity team will offer a small menu of healthy, fresh food items, such as eggs, dairy, fruit and vegetables. The team’s initial emphasis will be on perishables, which are not as readily available in food pantries. Shoppers at these stores will be able to suspend these items, to aid other shoppers in the community who are food insecure. In the future, Kinetic plans to partner with an increasing number of grocery stores across the country and foster communities where food support is reciprocal and de-stigmatized. Ultimately, we hope to engender a self-sustaining cultural shift in the way Americans view food insecurity through this suspended groceries system.