JEFFERSON VALLEY, N.Y. – A high-tech, self-service food box intended to help feed the needy was installed Tuesday at the Jefferson Valley Mall.

Created by a Connecticut teen, the box is located on the second floor of the mall. It is accessible to the public, just past the food court near the community room and staff offices, during the mall’s hours of operation.

It was designed by Navod Jayawardhane, a high school junior from Wilton, Conn., who is an honors student and co-captain of his school’s robotics team. Using his skills in electronics, Jayawardhane created the food box to address hunger in the area.

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Using ultrasonic distance sensors, Jayawardhane devised a system that signals when the box is running low on canned goods. An email alert is automatically sent to the person in charge of restocking the food box.

Jayawardhane noted the disappointment of someone coming to a food box for canned goods, needing assistance that day, but finding the box empty. “I wanted to create something that solves this problem,” he said, “and lets people get what they need while still helping them preserve their anonymity and dignity.”

The project was supported by Alexa O’Rourke, the mall’s general manager, and Heather Novak, its marketing director. In addition to providing a special location for the box, O’Rourke is also installing a nearby bin in which residents can drop off donations of canned goods, which will be used to replenish the stock in the box.

O’Rourke has also ordered signage directing people to the food box and explaining its purpose.

“We are so supportive of the efforts of this young man with a big heart,” O’Rourke said. “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.”

A ceremony unveiling the food box was held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6, at the Jefferson Valley Mall.

Jayawardhane plans to expand his concept to other communities. For information on how to obtain a food box or plans to build one, call 914-420-8115 or email