Identifying New Opportunities for Food Bank Donation from Food Service Retail

Fellows: Hemank Lamba, Fridolin Linder, Esha Maharishi
Data Science Mentor(s): Olfa Nasraoui
Project Manager: Lauren Haynes
Project Partner: Feeding America

Feeding America, the nation’s leading hunger relief organization of 200 food banks and over 60,000 agencies (e.g., soup kitchens, food pantries, etc.), brought in 4 billion pounds of food and served 3.3 billion meals to 46 million food insecure Americans in 2014. The organization has set a bold new goal to close the meal gap, providing meals to every individual in need by 2025.

One initiative that will play a vital role in meeting that goal is Online Marketplace, which focuses on “non-traditional retail” food service donors, such as restaurants, hotels, cafeterias, and convenience stores. Surplus food from these establishments has traditionally been challenging to rescue in an efficient and economically viable manner. As a result, billions of pounds of good food goes to landfills each year instead of feeding the 49 million food insecure today.

In 2015, DSSG partnered with Feeding America for an in-depth “Opportunity Analysis” of the local foodservice channel, identifying the total pounds of “opportunity” within the service area of a food bank. The DSSG team built tools to (1) estimate the amount of food available from these food service donors, (2) help food banks facilitate local donor-agency connections efficiently, (3) reduce waste to landfills, and (4) source new meals to meet the need of food insecure Americans.