Are any brigades connected to any active efforts around helping restaurants/caterers/facilities donate surplus food? I’m talking to a nonprofit in Philly that’s doing this and advocating moving towards an open-source approach. I came across a lot of projects on github that look similar but it’s not clear anything is attached to an org that’s actually moving food like they are. If anyone is actively doing this I’d love to get connected and see what possibilities there might be for converging the software for multiple orgs into a shared open-source codebase
I did a bunch of background research on the general space of food recovery (aka gleaning). It’s pending review for publication, so I can’t share the paper until later this year, but I’m happy to discuss it privately for now.
The only project related to connecting food sources to service agency (that provide direct service, feeding people either through hot meals or giving away food to consume later)
that I know of is
https://github.com/codeforboston/pantry_pickup which appears abandoned.
Before you start considering this as a project, first
be sure to reach out to your local Feeding America affiliate. Each Feeding America affiliate/food bank (there’s usually 1 per metro area or town) will consist of upwards of dozens of food pantries and hot meals who directly distribute the food the public, knows best practices and the situation on the ground.
The food bank locally may already have relationships with local groceries and facilities and procedures, and arrange for the service agencies to pick the items up.
The biggest obstacles to getting the food to those who need it isn’t so much connecting or coordinating the donors and the service agencies.
From my experience as a paid, full-time food pantry supervisor for 3+ years who had received food donations dozens of times over the years, the primary
obstacles (of getting the food to the people) aren’t so much tech-related or connecting the potential donors
(there aren’t any easy wins to solve here) to the service agencie, but are other logistical issues.
The biggest obstacle that I’ve experienced is that most service agencies often have very limited storage space, especially for perishable items. In my experience, this applies more often to
service agencies that offer hot meals because the space (where they offer the meal) is often just borrowed or used in several other ways (school cafeteria, meeting space for local organizations).
There were numerous times when I had to store donated food that I picked up one pantry instead of another one because one had a lot more storage space than the other.
Many othe times, I had to turn down some donations (or not take all of it) because I simply didn’t have the space for all of it or because I couldn’t give it all away before it would go bad.
Many of the direct service agencies are only open on a weekly or a monthly basis. The parishable
food to donate may not last until then.
Lastly, and this is the most part, is that may not be worth a volunteer to drive thirty or fourty minutes (round-trip) just to pick up a few pounds of something. If you’re feeding 70 to 80 people;
and your donation of leftover from a catering events feeds only 40-50; that’s still not enough to feed everyone and creates a little bit of hassle of cooking different things and then trying to figure out
how much of what item to cook, what to do when one entree runs out; etc. You may not have the storage space to
for the extra 40-50.
Over the years, I had received a couple dozen unsolicited calls for donations (most of my donations that I picked up were from grocery stores that I had established partnerships with through our feeding america agency), I’m blanking right now on how many of them actually offered to deliver the items to the pantry.
That said, the more appropriate place where brigades could help would be to see how to facilitate the transfer of those items to the service agency (if they’re able to store them).
Overall, I personally would minimize expectations that technology is able to remarkably improve the food pantry experience for people. Focus more on policies are so that people have enough to
eat without having to go to a pantry.