Focus on: Optimize Operations

Nearly 16 million households in America face hunger. That equates to more than 42 million, or one in eight, people who are food insecure.

Nutrition is vital to a healthy life. Hungry people are almost three times as likely to be in poor health and hungry teens are five times more likely to commit suicide. These are just a few of the reasons why addressing this issue has a profound impact on our world. Making a difference takes a global movement that transforms our thinking and reimagines what’s possible.

Digital transformation is a technology-driven movement that is creating unprecedented opportunities for organizations of all shapes and sizes to reinvent processes and remake themselves into digital-first enterprises. But it’s not just about upgrading products or using the latest advances to spur growth. In this digital transformation, companies use modern technology to efficiently and effectively address the world’s challenges and work together to build something from which our entire society can benefit.

Here in the U.S., Feeding America is leading the fight to end hunger through a nationwide network of 200 member food banks and 60,000+ feeding programs. The organization, with the help of their partners, serves 46 million people every year and distributes 3.7 billion meals to those who are “food insecure” and might not know where their next meal will come from.

Optimizing operations to feed the hungryIn the United States, according to the USDA, 263 million pounds of food is thrown away. Every. Single. Day. That amounts to about 1.5 tons of food per year; enough to feed for every adult and child in the United States.

The greatest challenge for Feeding America is getting produce quickly enough to those who need it most. Their process was time consuming and outdated at best. Donors alerted a central agency, the agency then forwarded that donation to a system that allowed food banks to accept the offer. This highly manual process meant delays of up to a week just to upload bids into the system. The multiple spreadsheets not only left ample room for error, but also increased the
time it took to complete simple tasks like verifying a warehouse location. Detailed recordkeeping and reporting was difficult as well.

Feeding America knew there was a better way to match potential donors with food banks. They reached out to Microsoft partner, Alligatortek, for help. The custom software development company created “The Produce Matchmaker,” a custom web application built using Microsoft Azure on the Office 365 platform.

“We love the Microsoft platform because it allows us to build apps that really touch people,” says CEO & President of Alligatortek, Sid Bala. “We’re all about helping our clients’ customers and so getting to the retail-facing public is what our Microsoft application technologies do for us.”

With the portal, donors submit offers with a simple click. Feeding America quickly reviews the offers and decides which ones to forward on so that food banks can bid. Real-time reporting provides immediate feedback on donation targets for the week, month, and year. A process that could potentially take an entire week has been reduced to just a few minutes. And that means a much greater percentage of perishable food goes to the hungry rather than the landfill.

With Microsoft Azure, Feeding America can accomplish much more and in less time. In fact, their entire business model has evolved from shelf-stable product to more perishable product. Since Produce Matchmaker was launched last summer, Feeding America has facilitated the donation of 128 million pounds of fresh produce through the platform. That’s about 10 percent of their overall produce donation.

“At some point in time we all are dreaming of the place where everybody in America has access to three meals a day,” says Bill Thomas, Feeding America’s Chief Supply Chain Officer. “We’re not there yet, but I think that’s our hope and dream that at some point in time we’re really going to be able to do that and stabilize the lives of the people we serve.”

The latest innovations in technology are prompting modern organizations like Feeding America to reconsider the status quo and reimagine what is possible when it comes to engaging customers, empowering employees, optimizing operations, and transforming products. Already, organizations across a wide range of industries are leveraging this next generation of technology solutions and embarking on their own digital transformation journeys with the help of tools like ours.

This story is just one of countless examples of organizations taking advantage of the latest technology to drive digital transformation. No matter the size and scope of your organization, prioritizing a digital-first model can help you achieve your business goals and maybe even solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Learn how your organization can impact the future by starting its own digital transformation journey today.

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