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
• Make use of the volunteer community to transport food from donor to agency
• Enabling agencies that are unable to collect food to take advantage of FoodRescue.ca
• Improving the current FoodRescue.ca platform to expand its reach
With Volunteer Connect, users can assist agencies that need food by transporting food from the donors to them. Agencies without the capacity to rescue the food themselves can redirect the task to local volunteers for pick-up and drop-off. Donors are notified of the pick-up to ensure a smooth rescue from start to finish.
• Expanded reach to agencies unable to collect food
• Reducing food waste which in turn reduced greenhouse gas emissions
• Increased community involvement in reducing food waste and greenhouse gas emissions
• Gained a solution that can be reused to create a mobile app for future growth
• Azure DevOps
• Dynamics 365
• Power Platform
• Microsoft Azure
Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization, operates with one vision: No Waste, No Hunger. They work across the supply chain to rescue and redistribute surplus food from food businesses to a robust network of 1,080 social service organizations that feed people experiencing hunger.
In 2018, after realizing their fleet was not enough to save all the food being wasted, 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 conduit for businesses looking to donate their surplus food for direct pick up by pre-approved community organizations.
Although FoodRescue.ca improved the impact of Second Harvest’s mission, they realized that it was not reaching everyone that could benefit from it. Only 43% of the agency network used the FoodRescue.ca solution. Many of the agencies that needed the food were unable to use the platform as they didn’t have the resources to devote to the pick-ups. This highlighted an opportunity to innovate the platform and enable these agencies to get on FoodRescue.ca.
Second Harvest was also underutilizing the local community as support for the food rescue mission. There was a lot of interest within the community to get involved, but not a lot of opportunities to do so. They realized that they could use volunteers to help transport food from the donors to the receiving agencies. However, the current FoodRescue.ca platform was not capable of employing a solution that would allow volunteers to help.
RedBit were the ones who really stepped in and took a program with many issues, and focused on not only how to fix those issues, but build a better program to have more success in the future
Regional Training Coordinator, Second Harvest
After obtaining a grant for this project, Second Harvest partnered with RedBit to develop the solution and integrate it with the current FoodRescue.ca platform. The partnership began with a discovery process that helped us understand what Second Harvest stood for, ask the difficult questions and spot the gaps in their way of thinking. As a result, Second Harvest gained a solid roadmap for the solution, coined Volunteer Connect, and a dedicated partner that became part of the journey towards reducing food waste and environmental impact.
The next step was to design and implement Volunteer Connect. However, development didn’t come without challenges. The legacy system that we started with couldn't be used to enhance Second Harvest’s impact with Volunteer Connect. So, we began by digitally transforming FoodRescue.ca into a system that was set up for the growth that they had envisioned.
Another hurdle was thrown into the mix as Second Harvest pivoted from using the solution for single donations to recurring donations. They realized that about 75% of their donations were recurring and were the ones that required volunteer support. As the new information came in, we were able to swiftly change direction and adapt what they had to the new path.
Our team, using Azure DevOps to plan, code, collaborate and release Volunteer Connect, developed in React, which would allow volunteers to register on the FoodRescue.ca platform to transport donations between donor and agency. Azure DevOps allowed us to easily rollback and make the changes with pipelines that let us automate the builds and deployments. This lets us spend less time with the nuts and bolts and more time being creative with the solution we delivered to Second Harvest.
With Volunteer Connect, agencies that were previously unable to collect food could redirect the claim to volunteers that can rescue the food for them. The solution is expected to significantly increase agency usage of FoodRescue.ca from the current 43%. It also opens the door to those interested in supporting Second Harvest by creating opportunities to contribute to their mission. We made the process very simple for those wanting to volunteer. Volunteers can set their availability and a travel radius to select rescues that are close to them. This allows them to be the middleman to bridge the gap between donor and agency.
The benefits don’t end there. We thought ahead and wanted to ensure that the solution was scalable for the future growth we expected for Second Harvest. So, we created the API’s to integrate with Dynamics 365 and wrote them so that they could be reused for a mobile app in the future. Now, not only are more agencies given access to FoodRescue.ca, expanding the current reach of Second Harvest, but we can ensure that we continue to keep healthy food on plates, not in landfills.
RedBit gives above and beyond support in a way that I didn’t know could really come from a team who is developing technology solutions for us
Acting National Director, Second Harvest