Boston launches chatbot and platform for food support

Boston has launched a new SMS chatbot to offer a centralised, 24/7 source of information about resources such as food banks, benefits and delivery services.

The tool is available in eight different languages and uses text messages so doesn’t require internet connectivity.

It was created by the Mayor’s Office of Food Access and the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) following the launch of a food delivery chatbot last year in response to the pandemic. “By reducing digital and language barriers, the Office of Food Access’ goal is to create a more equitable food system where everyone is welcome and can be connected with the resources they need”, said Catalina López-Ospina, Mayor’s Office of Food Access Director. “In the first iteration of the chatbot we received very positive feedback from residents, and we hope this tool helps residents navigate all the resources that are available in the city.”


The city also announced a new online food donations platform to encourage connections between those that have food available for donation and those that need it or can distribute it, and to avoid food waste.

Once an organisation or individual creates an account, they can post food available and mark it as claimed. The donations need to be approved by the Office of Food Access. To claim food, organisations or individuals can contact the ‘donor’ and arrange the logistics for pick up between themselves.

In Boston and many other cities, COVID-19 exacerbated existing food insecurity issues.

The new initiatives aim to help reach the goals outlined in Boston’s Food Access Agenda to recover from the pandemic and end food insecurity by 2030.

“Ensuring every Boston resident has access to nutritious meals is essential to building an equitable City,” said Mayor Kim Janey.


This article first appeared on Cities Today

Image credit: Joel Muniz via Unsplash