Data feeds the hungry of the UK and USA

Poverty is driving increased use of food banks, especially during the pandemic. Two charities have worked with leading data tech firms to put food on the table.

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On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, the last decade has seen poverty increase - in particular, food poverty. Charities seeking to feed those that cannot afford a basic meal are using data analytics as the key ingredient to putting food on the tables of the most needy in the USA and UK. 

Research by Imperial University found that the austerity regime introduced by the current British government in 2010 has created food poverty and insecurity through a lack of money and resources. A total of six studies have concluded that welfare policy changes introduced since 2010 have led to an increased usage of food banks. During the first two years of this decade and the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic, charity The Trussell Trust, which aims to end the use of food banks, reports the number of families needing food bank support increased by 11%. It has been reported that 21.1% of the UK’s population are now living in poverty. In the USA, the US Census Bureau data revealed that 19.3 million households didn’t get enough food in May of last year, up from 8.5 million in 2019. 

“Data has become even more important in our pandemic response,” says Stephanie Zidek, Director of Data and Analytics at Feeding America, the largest food charity in the USA. Feeding America partnered with data analytics provider Tableau to optimise and improve visualisation at the nationwide charity. Whilst in the UK, City Harvest has been working with Tibco to improve data analytics and, therefore, operations. “City Harvest is a solution and sits in the middle of two big issues - food waste and food poverty,” says the CEO of the charity, David Carter. Based in London, City Harvest delivers surplus food to 350 charities in the capital. “Take the baker’s dozen, the excess is baked into the system, and there is an impact on the environment, but then there are people not having enough food. The charities we work with go and do something with that food in a homeless centre, a food bank or an after school club.” Carter says City Harvest wants to become part of the supply chain, built into the retail and hospitality sector strategies to reduce the high levels of food that end up in landfill.

Improving the staple

“We realised the need for more frequent and readily available data in order to be able to respond in real-time to what is going on and to provide support to our neighbours in need,” Zidek says with great clarity of the role of data, but also the situation.

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