Canada’s largest food rescue and distribution organization, operating at the intersection between hunger relief and environmental protection.
Food rescue and distribution
• Expanding the reach of the FoodRescue.ca solution within donor and agency network
• Increasing climate action through expanded food recovery
• Expanding accessibility of FoodRescue.ca to small and medium sized businesses who can’t fully utilize the website
We developed Second Harvest’s online food donation platform FoodRescue.ca, into a mobile app for businesses of all sizes. The online platform bridged the gap between donors and agencies to create a connection for food rescues. As an extension of the web solution, the mobile app serves as an inclusive, user-friendly platform, accessible to anyone with a smartphone.
• Increased usage of FoodRescue.ca by small and medium-sized donors
• Increased pounds of food donated through the FoodRescue.ca platform
• Increased greenhouse gas emissions diverted as a result of increased food rescued
• The streamlined registration process to increase ease of use of the platform
• REST API’s
Canada does not have a food shortage problem but rather a food access, loss and waste problem. Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization, operates with one vision: No Waste, No Hunger. They rescue surplus food from food businesses and redistribute to a large network of 1,080 social service organizations that feed people experiencing hunger. For 35 years, Second Harvest has used their fleet of trucks to rescue and distribute more than 155 million pounds of food and prevent 192 million pounds of greenhouse gas equivalents from entering the atmosphere.
In 2018, after realizing their fleet was not enough to save all the unused food, Second Harvest launched FoodRescue.ca. The platform offered a simple way to connect food donors to local nonprofits in need. It served as a matchmaking tool for businesses looking to donate their surplus food for pick-up by pre-approved community organization
FoodRescue.ca offered a sound solution to directly connect donors to receiving agencies. The problem then became about increasing the accessibility of the platform to everyone that needed it. As a website, FoodRescue.ca allows food businesses of any size to donate surplus food and social organizations to claim the food they need. However, Second Harvest realized that only 43% of the agency network used the platform to connect to the donors. They wanted a way to expand the reach of FoodRescue.ca within the community.
On top of that, many small to medium-sized businesses lacked the technological infrastructure to fully utilize the platform as a standalone website. Staff at nonprofits rarely tend to work from computers. The members of these businesses are very mobile in the way they help the community and therefore are not able to access the web platform often. On the other hand, prospective food donors of similar size face the same problem of access. This lack of access was a barrier to those that had an interest in participating in FoodRescue.ca.
The only way to overcome the lack of mobility with the FoodRescue.ca platform was to create a mobile app to use on the go. Second Harvest partnered with us to guide them through the process. They had already been working with our team to not only improve the web platform but also to design and develop a solution, called Volunteer Connect. This solution helped volunteers to bridge the gap between donors and agencies. Having previously built a relationship with us proved that a tech partner could be so much more than that, and so Second Harvest knew this new project would be no feat for us.
Second harvest gained the support of Environment Climate Change Canada, with the Climate Action Fund, to develop an app that will ultimately increase climate action through expanded food recovery. Using Xamarin, we developed a free, publicly available app to improve access and ease of use for small to medium sized Canadian businesses. Xamarin gave us the ability to deploy to iOS and Android from a single code base, cutting down on our development time. We are also able to reuse the REST API’s that we created for Volunteer Connect in the mobile app.
Through the app, businesses can donate their surplus food and agencies can claim food donations they need. Food Rescue mobile allows for shared access to many employees without the need for a computer. In the future, this app will also allow donors to post photos of their food donations straight from their phones so potential recipients can see exactly what is available.
The new FoodRescue.ca mobile app has increased participation by expanding accessibility and convenience for donors and receiving agencies. The platform is now accessible to any business, who otherwise would not have the capacity to use a web tool that requires a traditional computer. The mobile app gave the Second Harvest network the freedom to use FoodRescue.ca on the go. With this, Second Harvest has significantly increased their capacity to connect food businesses to nonprofits and make relationships between the community. The solution not only saves donors, even more, on the cost of getting rid of food but also saves more food from reaching landfills, thus lessening the environmental impact.
Beyond accessibility, the new mobile app also increases ease of use of the FoodRescue.ca. We took the time to understand the community that Second Harvest serves and realized that if they could save them time, the for-profit and nonprofit businesses could focus on what matters. The mobile app allowed the opportunity for us to streamline the registration process to make it easier for users to start using the app.
All participating businesses are also made aware of the climate impact created by food waste. The FoodRescue.ca mobile app presents food donors with a comprehensive snapshot of their climate impact in real-time with their donations. Businesses can see how much food they've donated, the number of meals their donations provided, and how many greenhouse gas emissions they averted as a result of their donations. This awareness is important to the app, as Second Harvest anticipates increased usage of FoodRescue.ca, increased pounds of food donated, and increased greenhouse gas emission averted.
Ultimately, the mobile app has expanded the client benefits for the entire Second Harvest community. It serves as an inclusive, user-friendly platform, accessible to anyone with a smartphone and increases public awareness of food waste and its contribution to climate change. The solution allows businesses to increase their climate actions through increased food recovery. It expands accessibility and allows Second Harvest the opportunity to start exploring how to make it even better. The mobile app opens up the doors for a closer community network between those that have and those that need and allows everyone the opportunity to make an impact.
The mobile app has been the easiest for us because RedBit built it. Its clean and it works properly. There are no surprises!
Acting National Director, FoodRescue.ca