17 Dec Why food insecurity is ‘banking’ on DX for change
At Simplus, our work depends on digital transformation’s powerful impact on corporate workflow processes. The work we’ve done to redesign legacy manual job functions into something completely automated with scalable, cloud-based capabilities for some of the leading organizations worldwide is challenging but gratifying.
But our focus has always been on the individual customer’s experience. How can we help these enterprises connect with the people who matter the most? More importantly, how can this transformation strengthen the bandwidth of their workforce? I guess you could say we like to kick butt then take down names. Knowing names makes quite an impression on a person.
Like many of us in the health tech industry, I was fascinated by the development, facilitation, and collaboration of Infosys and Salesforce’s COVID-19 vaccine management solution. Creating digital technology that enabled state organizations to connect with millions of individuals–by name–with up-to-date health information, online vaccine registrations, and patient tracking innovations for state and federal health agencies was rewarding and humbling. The capabilities hatched by this automated endeavor are limitless–particularly in the field of human services.
Lately, I have been especially interested in similar innovations that empower those who often feel powerless and lack access to the basic building block of healthy living: food.
These current statistics from FeedingAmerica.org are enough to make you drop your sandwich:
—Each year, 108 billion pounds of food is wasted in the US.
—The cost of wasted food equates to around $161 billion.
—Almost half (40 percent) of all food in this country is wasted.
Despite the abundance of food produced in this country, data from FeedingAmerica.org estimates that around 15 million people will experience food insecurity by the end of 2021.
Surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic forced food banks to explore solutions amid the challenges. For example, the primary motivation for most service organizations was to address higher demand for food while following strict safety guidelines that limited in-person interactions.
Enter digital transformation.
Food banks across the country discovered their distribution models wouldn’t hold up under new, complex restrictions and increased demands. With rising overhead costs, fewer donations, and a growing need, food pantries needed to optimize their limited resources with streamlined workflows, collaborative strategies, more efficient processes, automation, and a renewed focus on the customer.
Centralized data systems
Organizations undergoing digital transformation soon discover that the key to growth isn’t more data. Instead, it’s about managing data smarter. “The mishmash of systems and a lack of a unified data framework meant the Greater Boston Food Bank’s IT department didn’t have a method for prioritizing projects,” says researcher Tamara Baer and her team.
As a result, people arrived at the wrong location for food donations or could not obtain the type of food they needed.
A web-based CRM like Salesforce allows multiple users to access information collected from various sources. With this technology, service centers can track and manage donor interactions, track supply availability, and monitor the need for available resources while navigating the most efficient way to connect those resources with the demand.
Use mobile apps to connect people with supplies
Pew research shows that 97 percent of Americans now own a cell phone, and 85 percent of them own a smartphone. Much like the Infosys Vaccine Management Solution relied on mobile apps to relay information, organizations like Feeding America, a US hunger-relief organization, use mobile applications to match supply with the demand, based on need. “They’re also able to arrange transportation, which in produce obviously is very time-sensitive,” says Ashley Speagle.
Using a mobile platform such as MealConnect, for example, matches the demand at a local restaurant or local grocery store to make sure food is picked up by food banks and provided to people being served the following day.
Experts at Feeding America believe that using a mobile cloud-based technology platform can assist in recovering at least 740 million meals each year. “Since the inception of the app,” explained Speagle, “businesses and partners reduced more than one billion pounds of food with this mobile app.
Track algorithms and traffic supply patterns
Improve the agency’s infrastructure. There’s been a shift in being more proactive in connecting valued resources with those in need in various regions. An automated CRM quickens that process by collaborating and tracking real-time data from other centers.
An organization can now expedite a large donation of fresh produce, for example, from a store in one area to centers in other regions that requested this specific type of donations for its customers by tracking available transportation and determining the quickest route to connect with those centers in need. No missed emails. No voice mails. No guesswork.
The collective attitude of nonprofit organizations is that they wish they could do more. And they want a process that makes it easier to facilitate services. With automated systems, workers can take meaningful, measurable, scalable, and impactful action that directs resources to the areas where help is most needed.
Redefine the customer experience
Chip R. Bell, a keynote speaker and author, once said, “The formula for creating and sustaining customer loyalty comes from understanding, inclusion, trust, and joy. Incorporate these four features in your customer experience and watch the admiration soar right along with your bottom line.” And that strategy applies across all industries.
A customer’s expectation for a positive experience is simple–and universal. Although the expectations associated with fighting food insecurity or even organizing a global vaccine initiative should be simple, meeting those needs is often complex. And that’s where digitalization is pivotal for achievement.
In my experience, one of the most satisfying parts of my job is to keep a pulse on the current issues and challenges in the industry and leverage research, innovative ideas, partnerships, and collaborations to solve the toughest problems we face today.
During this time of year, it’s gratifying to see digital transformation play a role in empowering human services organizations, whose work is so important for our communities, to perform their jobs more effectively while they strive to reverse hardships like food insecurity one name, one person, at a time.
Jayneel is VP, Healthcare & Life Sciences, here at Simplus. With a Ph.D. in engineering and MBA from Duke and over 15 years of experience, Jayneel designs and delivers empathy-driven innovative solutions in healthcare. He has developed digital strategies to reduce risk, increase visibility, and improve patient and member satisfaction. His passion is to enable better care through technology.