The idea of Yellow Crate started in Europe. Alex Paniagua, junior international business major, went into a coffee shop in Italy, where customers can buy two coffee cups, one for themselves and one for another person who cannot afford to pay for it.
The experience in the coffee shop made Paniagua think: why not use the same technique but in supermarkets and grocery stores? What if grocery stores used the same idea to help the poor?
When Paniagua came back to John Brown University, he had a conversation with Clayton Anderson, who was the Director of Enactus. Anderson and Paniagua talked about Paniagua’s experience, and both realized that Siloam Springs does not have a method of donations like the coffee shop in Italy.
Anderson had the idea of creating a phone application. Anderson, Paniagua and other students that are part of ENACTUS, a national organization that uses businesses to impact communities, started to work on this new project. In collaboration with Seth White, electrical engineering graduate of 2014, and Alex Dello Iacono, business management graduate of 2014, they were able to develop a phone application called “Yellow Crate.”
Yellow Crate is available in the Apple Store for download.
Humberto Smith, a JBU student, said that the whole idea of Yellow Crate is to help the make the donation process easier. Basically, the application will connect food pantries with people who are buying in supermarkets.
“You cannot say ‘I don’t donate because the food pantry is so far from my house. ‘You can just go to the store, pick something up and donate it’,” Smith said.
Donors will receive a notification from the Yellow Crate app on their smartphones when they go into the store. The app provides a list online of items needed in the food pantries. After, the donors checkout they can choose the item and quantity drop the item in the Yellow Crate by the exit.
The app will remind shoppers to drop off the items when they leave. This function requires the user to have their GPS on.
Once all the items on the list are bought, the staff in the food pantry will be informed. The staff will come to the supermarket and pick up the products.
The online list is used because the staff in the food pantry realized they are receiving overflowing amount of canned products. But, they do not have other items needed to satisfy the demand in the food pantry.
The Manna Center is the first food pantry that benefits from Yellow Crate donations.
For the moment people can donate only at Harps in Siloam Springs and Whole Foods Market in Fayetteville.
Smith said that the project will start making an impact in the local community. Firstly to help all the food pantries in Siloam Springs to get all that they need and then gradually expand to neighboring places.
“Difficult part is to make people understand how easy is to help others and the importance that the donations have for those who are in need,” Paniagua said.