Bringing Food to Neighbors- With the Help of an App
When Arlington EATS shifted to a full-delivery model due to COVID-19, staff and volunteers quickly developed systems to take orders and bring food directly to neighbors. A fleet of volunteer delivery drivers emerged, but there was one thorny problem — designing their routes. 

With demand higher than ever, efficiency was paramount and EATS Program Manager, Susan Dorson, wanted to be mindful of volunteers’ time. 

Meanwhile, early in the pandemic, Boston-based geospatial tech company AppGeo began to look for a way to address the hunger crisis. 

“We felt compelled to do something,” President Rich Grady says. “We decided to focus our expertise and access to geospatial technology on a widespread and pressing problem — the hunger and food insecurity created by the pandemic.”

In mid-April, AppGeo project manager Priya Sankalia, an Arlington resident and EATS supporter, connected with Dorson. Six weeks later, EATS was the first use case for a new app — Bringfood. It evolved based on feedback from Dorson, and it does exactly what she requested. For each day of deliveries, a volunteer logs on to the application, uploads a spreadsheet of addresses, and enters the number of routes to be created. Using Google technology and custom algorithms, Bringfood generates routes, which are handed off to the drivers. None of the data is stored by the application, so addresses remain private. 

Dorson is thrilled with the partnership. “Drivers are able to have the most efficient route possible. This means less wasted time, less frustration, and people get their food quickly,” she says. EATS volunteers say that the app has saved hours of driving and retracing steps. 

Bringfood launched publicly on July 9 and is free to nonprofit and government organizations. More than 40 organizations throughout the United States have already been granted access. 

AppGeo and EATS will team up again for an August 12th webinar about Bringfood and meeting the new challenges of home delivery. National organizations, including Feeding America, will be in the audience. Tune in!
Summer Reading
Remember lazy summer days as a kid, running around outside with your friends or going to the pool? Or reading a really good book and going on a grand adventure? Now more than ever, it’s a good time to pick up a book and be transported for a while. That’s why Arlington EATS is so excited to partner with the Arlington Libraries in bringing books to families who receive our food deliveries.

Over 170 books have been distributed with our food delivery bags so far this summer.

“We’re thrilled to be able to get books into kids’ hands this summer, and we are forever grateful to Arlington EATS for helping to make this possible,” says Pam Watts-Flavin, Head of Children’s Services at Robbins Library. 

We hope that not only will we alleviate the worry about where the next meal is coming from, but also give children a way to fuel their imaginations.
Donation Items for August
During August, we are collecting adult incontinence products (Depends, pads, etc). Each week, we receive 20-30 requests for this vital and expensive resource for seniors.

Also, just a reminder, starting this month, we changed our donation drop-off hours to Tuesdays from 1:00-4:00 pm. Donations may be left outside on the tables provided on Lombard Rd. 

Lastly, we’re accepting small quantities of brown paper bags. We are only looking for standard size grocery bags; please, no smaller/larger bags. Please be sure all bags lay flat and do not have any rips.
School Lunch Debt Payback
Several years ago, Arlington Public Schools (APS) approached EATS with a problem: unpaid school lunch debt. APS prides itself on ensuring every child has access to school lunch, regardless of their ability to pay. Still, the remaining debt put a financial burden on schools. As always, we counted on our wonderful community for help.

This spring, donors covered $4,000, serving 240 kids. We normally run an online fundraiser to cover costs, but this year we didn’t need to. 

Most of the families that had debt made slightly too much to qualify for free and reduced price lunches yet not enough to pay for the entire cost of lunch. Others had an emergency that left them without the resources to pay their lunch bills.

Regardless of circumstances, together we’re serving our neighbors and keeping kids fed so that they can learn. If you would like to contribute to School Lunch Debt Payback for upcoming years, you can make a donation below!
Arlington EATS
58 Medford Street
Arlington, MA 02474