Welcome to the last blog of the project! It has been a long semester, with lots of hard work, but it was fun and it was worth it. We have almost wrapped up our project with the food bank! Having finished our infographic, we now have the report left, where we will outline our process, results, and conclusion in detail.
As the saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As a group, we have had many significant moments throughout the course of the project.The weakness of some were covered by the strength of others, and in the end, we learned to overcome some of our flaws we had before coming together. Here we will outline our hurdles in constructing a policy suggestion for the food bank.
Our most significant moment once we had summarized and analyzed our product data was choosing our suggested distribution range. Looking at the data, we found a steep incline once the policy was reduced to anything less than 8 months past the best-before-date. Changing the policy to 12 months past the best-before-date to 8 months showed a product loss of 8%, which would be only 3% over the initial 5% of product loss. We settled on 8 months, as it is a 4 month improvement for members, without a substantial increase in product loss.
We also struggled with the amount of product loss that would be “acceptable.” The balance between product loss and shortening the best-before-date to make for happier members is a tricky seesaw. The food bank has equal responsibility in catering to food disposal ethics, as well as juggling member concerns.
Overall, the experience was quite pleasant working with the food bank, as well as Erin and Kevin, the community partners. It was quite pleasing to see how thorough the inspections were with the donated foods, as to make sure that the donated foods were not damaged, contaminated or expired. But overall, learning about how the food bank works, and seeing how many people it contributes has been a real eye opener. As a group, we learned to be more thoughtful to what we donate to food drives, and we have also portrayed that message to others during our presentation.
The suggestion had a couple accompanied implications. For example, the difference of 4 months (12 months to 8 months) may not make a difference to members. For them, past the best-before-date may just simply be past the best-before date, no matter how many months past.
Similarly, our data might not be an accurate representation of what the food bank receives as the food bank receives a wide variety of products each month, which is a well-known limitation to our project. For example, some of the streams that we wished to analyze did not donate any products in the month of February. This meant that their data was exempt from our project, although the data may have been valuable, and potentially may have shifted our conclusion substantially.
A policy suggestion that moves members towards receiving products closer to their best-before-date is a success in and of itself, especially when the product loss difference is quite trivial at 3%.
This policy suggestion brought us into raising other questions, though. For example, as a group, we realized that member education of the difference between best-before-date and expiry date is crucial to their understanding of receiving products that are past their best-before-date. This project was brought to light due to members having concerns whenever products past their BBDs are distributed. But some members might be okay with the current policy the food bank posses, and could potentially think that throwing out the extra products with the new policy suggestion might be a waste of perfectly good food.
Some other consequences would be having to deal with the increased disposal of canned foods if the food bank does adopt the policy suggestion. Resources such as manual labour and financial aspects goes into the disposal of canned goods as a separate company has to dispose the unusable food.