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Local High School Student Uses Digital Electronics to Create a High-Tech Self-Service Food Pantry for Families in Need

Navod Jayawardhane is a junior honors student at Wilton High School, and co-captain of the Wilton Robotics Team in Wilton, CT, has used his knowledge of electronics to create the first of its kind self-service food pantry with the goal of helping to address food insecurity in our community.

This electronic food pantry is being installed on June 27th in the Jefferson Valley Mall Community Hub (located at 650 Lee Blvd, Yorktown Heights, NY) on the second floor just past the food court near the community room and staff offices. It is accessible to the public during the hours of operation when the mall is open.

Through the use of ultrasonic distance sensors that keep track of the amount of canned goods residing in the food pantry at any point in time, Navod devised a system that sends a signal when the quantity of canned goods inside the pantry becomes low. When this happens, an email alert is automatically sent to the person in charge of restocking the food pantry. Navod said, “When someone comes to a food pantry to pick up canned goods because their family is in need of assistance that day, they will be disappointed to find the food pantry empty. I wanted to create something that solves this problem and lets people get what they need while still helping them preserve their anonymity and dignity.

Navod presented his idea to the manager of the mall, Alexa O’Rourke, and the marketing director, Heather Novak, and they immediately embraced the idea of installing Navod’s project at the mall to be accessible to any families who need assistance. To support Navod’s efforts, O’Rourke ordered signage explaining the food pantry and there will even be signage on the floor to lead people to its location.  The signage includes wording that says, “Take what you need, leave what you can.” This location in the mall will also be a drop off point for donated canned goods that will be used to replenish the stock in the food pantry.

O’Rourke said, “We are so supportive of the efforts of this young man with a big heart. The Jefferson Valley Mall Community Hub is here to help take care of our community. This is a center for people to come to and engage with each other as well as feel supported, embraced and cared for. Our offices will hold excess inventory of canned goods to help feed families in need in our community.

To kick-off Navod’s self-service food pantry, he is having a food drive. The community is invited to come to the Jefferson Valley Mall Sunset Market event on Thursday, June 27th from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm and bring donations of canned goods that will be used to restock the food pantry.

Navod’s plan is to expand his concept to other communities and help address the issue of food insecurity by making canned goods available at a time and place when families need a little extra help.

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