Piloting Feeding America’s first neighbor-facing service, Helpful Harvest, to improve access to charitable food
Grocery Ordering Service
Jun 2019 - Sep 2019
Feasibility & Viability Testing
Cross Department Collab
Food insecure neighbors experience emotional and physical barriers to the traditional food pantry model. The long waiting time and the limited open hours at food pantries prevent many neighbors from accessing charitable food. Moreover, the stigma associated with food pantries could also drive neighbors away. Feeding America’s Innovation Team is piloting a grocery click-and-collect service, Helpful Harvest, to improve access to charitable food today. With Helpful Harvest, neighbors can shop Food Bank’s inventory online and pick it up at a nearby, discreet, and convenient location, such as a YMCA or a library. Helpful Harvest addresses emotional barriers and improves convenience for neighbors, it enables Food Banks to distribute more food with less cost, and it is the first step for Feeding America to support additional digitally-enabled interactions that address a range of neighbors’ needs.
Your online source of grocery when in need
Helpful Harvest is an online click-and-collect grocery service for those in need. Neighbors can shop for groceries online and pick them up at a nearby, convenient, discreet location, such as a library or a YMCA.
How It Works.
It is reaching the unreached.
On average, 94% of Helpful Harvest users are food-insecure. 38% of users are not going to pantries. Among the 6 experiments we conducted, college town has the highest percentage, 65%, of users who are not using food pantries. Helpful Harvest is reaching the previously unreached neighbors.
It is a digital platform that is scalable and complementary to other services.
Digital options are best due to scalability across the Network of Food Banks with little capital investment. Beyond capacity expanding services, Digital also adds a critical link to connect with neighbors on their own terms. Starting with groceries, Helpful Harvest can grow to support additional digitally-enabled interactions that address a range of neighbors’ needs and help overcome the barriers they face.
Why It Matter.
Why would food-insecure neighbors use Helpful Harvest?
Meet me where I am. Respect my privacy.
“It’s nice that I can come, grab a box, and walk out. No one has to know why. That eliminates another barrier for access.” - Helpful Harvest user
“I think it was very easy and there’s anonymity to ordering online, that helps.” - Helpful Harvest user
Start small & adjust
Learn about Helpful Harvest
Is it right for my Food Bank?
Make the case
Identify where to start
Set up partnership
Set up operation
Use Need Mapping Tool to identify the unserved population in your service areas and to the potential impact, using data from Service Insight, Mission Insite, and Mapping the Meal Gap.
Use Capacity Calculation Tool to understand what type of service model you should adopt with your Food Bank's capacity, including food sourcing, staffing, spaces, and funding.
How do Food Banks adopt Helpful Harvest?
Finding the right Messaging Partners is key to reach the unreached
Discuss with your Pick-up Partner to find the right pick-up model.
Can Food Bank afford to run Helpful Harvest?
Explicit Need from Food Bank Network
Over 50 food banks voiced their interest in adopting Helpful Harvest
Avoid Fragmentation, Again
Some bigger Food Banks and Agencies, like Mid-Ohio Food Bank and Lakeview Pantry, are just starting to build their own digital platforms to serve their neighbors. These platforms will be difficult to translate across different Food Banks and Agencies if they are developed separately. It is the perfect time for Feeding America to work with these bigger Food Banks and Agencies to develop a digital solution that can be translatable and scalable across Feeding America's network of Food Banks and Agencies.
Could Fund Itself
Donor Relations finds Helpful Harvest compelling to fund
Process & Learning
Pilot Experiments to Learn Fast
We selected two Food Banks and provided them with grants to pilot Helpful Harvest. We built a minimal viable prototype, which was a simple Wordpress site for Helpful Harvest grocery ordering. Together, we tested the entire service, including setting up partner relationships, finding viable solutions for food sourcing, designing the pick-up experiences, and more.
Second Harvest Food Bank, Madison, WI
Medium food bank
Existing informal partner relations
Food Banks will reach significantly more of the target neighbors by piggybacking on well-known, trusted community organizations, like YMCA, and relevant social media community groups, like Food Shed.
2. Hypothesis & Learning
There are 3 proven pick-up models that strike the balance of providing neighbors with privacy and allowing minimal staff capacity.
Staffed by partner's volunteers
Passively monitored by partner's staff
Team & Partners
Feeding America Internal Team
Innovation Team (Core Team)
Maura Shea, Vice President
Dan Butt, Senior Manager & Service Designer
Kevin Kastenholz, Business Director
Joanne Hsu, Innovation Intern
Emily Catalano, Digital Specialist
Supply Chian Team, Research Team
Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin
The Dayton Food Bank
Northern Illinois Food Bank
Lussier Family East YMCA
Mid-Ohio Food Bank