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How Inventory Management Supports Food Security

Food insecurity is an issue that continues to be a challenge for most communities the world over. With continual stress on food supplies and markets the topic of food security is becoming ever more critical. The issue is also becoming more prevalent in communities and in families that would have once been considered free of food insecurity.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020 basic food prices have continued to rise the world over. Add to this that we are seeing inflationary trends across all basic services we are seeing an overwhelming pressure on families and communities.

At the forefront of the food insecurity issue are nonprofit charities and food banks. These organizations are by and far the principal point of contact with those in the communities they serve. They understand the needs of their communities best because of their established presence and grassroots organizing strategies within those communities. They also tend to be the managers and distributors of the food resources that are donated to them. This being the case they continually need new approaches and innovative solutions for managing the resources they take in and distribute. With inflation and food costs rising these nonprofits and food banks are being tasked with maximizing the resources they have due to increasing need.

Innovative inventory management solutions are one of the new tools and approaches that are being applied to the foodbank organization. Proper and efficient inventory management of food donations and resources can be one of the many ways to effectively maximize the impact of foodbanks and nonprofits. By accurately tracking what is being taken in, from what sources, and when, foodbanks can better manage when and how resources are used and plan accordingly.

Simple concepts and solutions that are well implemented and then managed and tracked can have a profound effect. For example, by tracking items donated by pounds and category, foodbanks can then begin to know how much of a food item they have on hand. They can then convert that into effective and actionable messaging when planning food drive events, community outreach initiatives or when planning with major partners/donors. As well, by tracking key point indicators, effective planning and organizational decisions can be taken to move and allocate resources so that they are being used wisely. The more effective the tracking, the better the insights and planning become.

Fundamental concepts used widely in warehousing and inventory management like allocation rules, as well as tracking of expiry dates can prove invaluable and increase efficiency. For example, foodbanks as previously mentioned, often receive food item donations from a myriad of sources. A food manufacturer, producer or retailer’s inventory is usually based on a first in first out concept. Foodbanks though cannot necessarily rely on this type of predictability. So, by tracking expiry dates of food received, a foodbank can identify which inventory should be distributed first. Perhaps items were received that, due to the expiry date, will have a longer shelf life then one that came in the following week. Thus, prioritization of distribution can be given to certain inventory over others. This effectively reduces waste while maximizing output to the community. If inventory is close to an expiry point those same items can be taken off the shelves and then redirected to other charities, like homeless shelters, who could use them to cook prepared meals.

Securing the food distribution channel is also imperative. A warehouse and inventory management system like WAM can help in this initiative by effectively tracking lot numbers. If recalls are then sent out by producers, the foodbank can then track down the items they distributed and recall them or else pull them out of inventory for disposal. Tracking the lot numbers also allows the nonprofit to potentially receive replacements for those recalled items. Rather than having an unexpected short fall they can instead cover the loss.

These inventory management features and concepts are all part of the functionality of Akatia Technologies’ warehouse management system, WAM. Akatia nonprofit partners are already putting our technological solution to work with successful impacts. Furthermore, the roadmap for change isn’t difficult. WAM is developed on the largest CRM in the world, Salesforce. What this means is that all the inventory data is stored on one platform, and in an environment that is secure. As well, it means that the solution is completely configurable to the specific needs of the organization. And to facilitate onboarding of volunteers and staff in application training resources are provided making the training process smoother.

Inventory management solutions like WAM have the benefit of maximizing resources to the benefit of community members, increasing efficiency in planning, and managing food distribution, reduce waste, and secure the food distribution channel.

Innovative inventory management can have a meaningful impact in fighting food insecurity. By implementing these solutions, we can give nonprofits and foodbanks the tools to meet the increasing need.

Akatia plans to continue to support this approach when it comes to food insecurity and working with nonprofits. With this in mind, Akatia Technologies have been invited to speak at the Zero Hunger Summit taking place at Dreamforce 2022 put on my Salesforce. We’ll be speaking about the positive role inventory management technologies like WAM can have in the global issue of food insecurity. For more information, please visit the link below to register.


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