With a new initiative, Google is working to “expand the information about food banks and pantries in Google Search and Maps” heading into the holidays and as challenges are “compounded by the COVID-19 crisis.” 

Food banks have always been critical to making sure people have regular access to nutritious food, but the ongoing pandemic has drastically increased their role as a crucial lifeline in so many communities. With the need for their services doubling or even tripling in some areas, we want to make sure that the people who need them most can find them.

In addition to existing data, Google has incorporated information from nonprofit partners WhyHunger and Hunger Free America to “make sure people searching for food support can find what they need” in Maps and Search. 

These changes are being made directly in Google Maps so food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens can focus on what matters most — getting people food.

Furthermore, Google wants to show locations that don’t yet have a website. The company previously used its Duplex technology to update business hours, as well as retail inventory, in an automated manner. 

So over the last two months, we’ve worked to update this information in Search and Maps, making 85,000 plus calls to verify local food banks and pantries. These efforts will continue through the holidays.

Those that have an online presence can provide listing details like whether an appointment is needed, eligibility requirements, what languages are spoken, whether prepared meals are available, or if grocery delivery is offered. They can also note whether they take donations and volunteers. 

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com