byWed, June 19, 2013
In 2011, 14.9 percent of U.S. households (17.9 million households) were “food insecure,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s study, Household Food Security in the United States in 2011. Those numbers equate to slightly more than 50 million Americans living in food-insecure households: 33.5 million adults and almost 17 million children. Many of the families queried in the study rely on food provided by various charities to feed themselves. Unfortunately, the nation’s charitable food supply chain itself is one of the most complex nutrition delivery systems in the entire world.
These “supply chains of giving” are often the primary source of sustenance in the United States for more than 1 in 10 Americans and almost 1 in 4 children. This crucial food delivery supply chain, to many of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, receives little financial investment, and today relies primarily on a combination of corporate philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, and dwindling government resources to ensure secure food delivery to those in need.
A Public-Private Effort – New Opportunities Available?
The U.S. network of food banks and their end-relief agency partners, such as soup kitchens and homeless shelters, receive food from many of the same sources – for example, corporate factories, distribution centers, etc. – patronized by large grocery stores. They also deal, though, with much more diverse supply sources; the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the prime example, but individual citizens also make some generous donations, and local food collection drives and store closeouts also help significantly. These charitable food banks and their partners do not, however, receive the same financial investments that their corporate counterparts do in terms of supply chain systems designed primarily to promote efficiency, security, and resiliency in their operations.
Experts from industry, government, and various charitable groups joined forces in 2001 to assess the supply chain network design. From these discussions, fortunately, a number of opportunities for improvement through the quick deployment and use of information systems were developed. As part of this effort, supply chain technologies are now reaching the populations in the last stages of the charitable supply chain. The impact of these changes and the corresponding data developed as a result has had a favorable effect on efficiency, resiliency, ability to sample, rapid-response capabilities, and ability to meet the immediate and continuing needs of the nation’s most vulnerable populations.
Earlier, though, in response to the issues threatening the safety of the food chain, a team of for-profit and nonprofit players – led by Feeding America®, a longtime domestic hunger-relief charity, and The Aidmatrix Foundation – joined forces in 2002 to create a set of online hunger relief solutions: DonorExpress™, AgencyExpress™, the Choice™ System, and Virtual Aid Drive™. This public-private partnership took highly sophisticated state-of-the-art technologies and applied them, in a modified form, to help humanitarian efforts throughout the country. Since their inception, these hunger relief solutions have helped facilitate the distribution of an estimated five billion pounds of food to humanitarian organizations throughout the United States.
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