Second Harvest is Canada’s largest food rescue and distribution organization, operating at the intersection between hunger relief and environmental protection.
Food rescue and distribution
• Established a common understanding between different organizational roles
• Identified the gaps in current roles and the opportunities for improvement
• Helped Second Harvest prioritize their goals and key deliverables
• Created a prototype that helped Second Harvest collect feedback about the platform and connect with community partners
Second Harvest is Canada’s largest nonprofit food rescue charity. Started as a community-based solution in Toronto, it’s since evolved into a provincial and now national impact creating organization. Their vision is simple: No waste. No hunger.
Originally, Second Harvest would rescue food by trucking the food between donors and nonprofit agencies (such as food banks, school programs, shelter, etc.). However, this method was only sustainable for large donations. Motivated to grow their mission, Second Harvest created the Food Rescue program to sustainably pick-up smaller donations. The platform promoted connections between donors and receiving agencies by directly matching the two parties together. Although successful, this method did have restrictions.
The Food Rescue program’s objective was to have a simple and fast web-based platform that would conveniently connect the donors directly to local nonprofit agencies in the community. The application helps smaller quantities of food get rescued, which in turn reduces the amount of food waste and decreases the release of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In search of a reliable tech partner, the global thought leader of food recovery entrusted RedBit to accelerate their mission to further not only the food rescued but the positive impact on the environment.
As the popularity of the Food Rescue program grew the Second Harvest team was excited to find new opportunities to extend the reach of the platform and further their impact. These opportunities resulted in 2 projects being initiated:
• Volunteer Connect: expanding the reach of Food Rescue to those smaller agencies that were not able to pick up donations themselves by asking volunteers to sign up and pick up the donated food on their behalf.
• Going Mobile: extending the reach of the platform to be more accessible to both donors and agencies who are on the move. Smaller food businesses need more flexibility in being able to donate food while agencies are always on the go. Having a mobile app would allow these smaller organizations to reduce food waste, feed the hungry and reduce greenhouse gases.
Before embarking on either project, we took Second Harvest through our discovery process. We were able to identify the sticky points and established areas for improvement in the user flows. It gave us an idea of how Volunteer Connect could be seamlessly folded into the FoodRescue.ca while achieving the goal of getting volunteers looped into the process. Essentially the discovery helped shape what the products should look like. For FoodRescue mobile, we included a faster registration process incorporated real-time live updates for food availability and included a method to reduce donation theft. Volunteer Connect allowed us to create a feature to repost recurring donations into the FoodRescue.ca.
Going into it we had different assumptions about how the tech should function, so the process is so important in helping our own team set aside any assumptions we might be coming in with and to think about it in a more critical and open minded way
Director of Programs and Partnerships, Second Harvest
At the start of any project, it's about devoting the time and energy and connecting the passions to create a bigger impact. In the discovery phase, we facilitated a discussion with the Second Harvest team to address various problem areas and rank the issues that needed immediate action. The discussion created a safe space for the different departments of their organization to share their perspectives and analyze their assumptions about the project.
The Discovery also broke down the user journey and illuminated the gaps in the existing platform. Bearing in mind that the success of the application is determined by how well the donors and agencies are connected, the Discovery uncovered that some of the sticky points were not only from the donor end but from the agency end as well. Using this process, we were able to draw out the targeted end users and work through the system to support Second Harvest in leveraging technology to grow their mission.
Moving forward, we bridged the gap between food donors and agencies by working on Second Harvest's web platform Volunteer Connect. This application matched the demand for the food available for pick up to the supply of volunteers who are willing and able to make the pickup. The Discovery narrowed down the priority concerns and gave Second Harvest the knowledge to confidently decide how to move forward with perfecting the system.
The success of the Discovery is an ode to a great partnership between RedBit and Second Harvest, that went beyond the words on the contract. When we sat down with Second Harvest to conduct the Discovery, it wasn’t just about going over the key issues, it was about getting to know everyone involved and making sure that everyone was a part of the team. It was about understanding the mission and the vision that Second Harvest wanted to achieve. Only through transparent, honest and authentic communication was this synergy possible.
Going through this process helped us build the mobile app for Second Harvest. The mobile app will allow the agencies to conveniently gather real-time information and updates on food availability so they can utilize the food donation service. By being a proactive rather than reactive partner, we've introduced Second Harvest to opportunities beyond the ask of the project.
While the discovery process provides the groundwork to understand the ask, the design phase gives a face to the project. The results of the design leave no room for surprises, meaning during this phase, we work closely with an organization to ensure that what we deliver is what is wanted.
We reviewed Second Harvest’s brand identity, noting everything from the colour scheme to elements in the existing FoodRescue.ca platform when developing the design for the app. A part of the process was conducting beta testing, wherein Second Harvest team members could test a prototype of the app from the convenience of their devices. The prototype allowed active feedback that was quickly adapted before the next phase of testing began. Working closely with the Second Harvest team, including the regional coordinator and the communication department, assured that the end results reflected Second Harvest's brand and values while tackling the key issues identified in the Discovery phase.
As an authentic tech partner, we understand that when considering the deliverables of the project, it goes beyond writing a line of code. It's about the organization’s social impact and how well they can use technology to maximize their reach. The prototypes are not only visual tools but a reference for Second Harvest to communicate with stakeholders and partners in the community what the technology will result in. This is useful for individuals at Second Harvest who are trying to connect with the community partners to get them on board with programs such as the mobile app.
A good partnership is key to sharing Second Harvest's mission with the community. It's about learning the purpose and the influence needed to execute Second Harvest's goals. Through the success of tech investment, they are well on their way to expand nationally.
In addition to the tech expertise, they really integrated with our team and I think that has been why we have these many success and milestones with food rescue technology.
Acting National Director, Second Harvest