COVID-19 Customer Story

LLamasoft Harnesses AI to Help the Houston Food Bank Deliver to Those Most in Need

Challenge

Houston Food Bank (HFB) is America’s largest foodbank, servicing 18 counties in Southern Texas and regularly providing assistance to more than 800,000 people per year through a network of 1,500 distribution partners, including churches, schools and community centers.

With the dramatic rise in unemployment and students unable to rely on school lunch programs due to COVID-19 closures, the HFB saw an immediate 45% increase in demand and the potential for this need to increase to 150%. At the same time, they saw a 90% drop in volunteer numbers and the forced closure of many of their partner agencies due to shelter in place and other government orders. As a result, they were experiencing severe shortages of both food and storage and distribution capacity to deliver it to those in need.

Solution

In line with its mission to help with public health/public aid projects, LLamasoft developed a custom application and, within days, was providing a ‘heat map’ of need and available supply by zip code. By incorporating available data sources including the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) populations around Houston, LLamasoft is also providing visibility into future demand by identifying those most likely to become food insecure. By visualizing the changing demographic data and layering in the open/closed/limited status of its distribution agencies, the solution allows the Houston Food Bank to identify the areas of greatest need both in the immediate term and provides predictions of future need, helping them stay ahead of the evolving community need to avoid being overwhelmed by changes in demand locations. LLamasoft and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) collaborated on this application for the Houston Food Bank. BCG provided domain expertise on data sources and use cases that helped shape the overall end product.

Results

Just a week after engaging with LLamasoft, the Houston Food Bank is now able to identify gaps or imbalances in supply and demand and create targeted strategies for addressing them. For example, based on demand and available distribution, HFB can determine where and when to run pop-up distribution centers and mobile food drives. The app has also helped HFB to figure out how to best deploy the additional manpower provided by the US National Guard after it stepped in to support the organization’s food distribution efforts, helping to maximize this valuable resource.



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