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.