By Alice Kenny
The NYC Conference on Hunger and Poverty awarded this distinction to Catholic Charities Site Manager Carmen Reyes on January 22 for adapting Toyota’s proven method to turn Catholic Charities Washington Heights Ecumenical Food Pantry into a model of efficiency.
Ms. Reyes credits her success to need, vision and teamwork. But the key, she adds, was the contribution made by Walter Martin, a recent grad from Lafayette College with a degree in civil engineering.
Walter adapted Toyota’s “Kaizen” thought process– Japanese for “continuous improvement” — to analyze “where I am; where I need to be and how do I get from here to there.”
Less than two years ago, Washington Heights’ food pantry was characterized by lines that circled the block.
Now, thanks to Mr. Martin’s simple computer program, folks pick up food bank tickets in the morning and return at appointed hours. They are warmly greeted by Ms. Reyes. They receive their food in minutes. And they receive case management services to help them live more independently.
Numbers quantifying the program’s success are astounding. This food pantry that used to serve 50 people per hour now serves between 100 – 130 people. Clients wait minutes, not hours, receiving food donations between 2 – 2.5 times faster. And instead of just receiving donations, they now also get prescreened for SNAP (food stamps) and receive a range of support spanning from immigration referrals to help filing for tax returns.
As for the Kaizen model of continued self improvement, Carmen says she is not stopping with this success.
Her next plans?
She hopes to recruit volunteers to deliver groceries to the home bound, the elderly and the disabled.