Logistics software helps charitable groups feed the hungry

The holidays aren't only about retail. Across the U.S., many charitable organizations will be making special efforts to provide food, clothing and gifts to some of the nation's most underserved individuals in the spirit of the season. Successfully carrying out initiatives like this requires a high level of organization on the part of distributors and fleet owners. With the help of logistics software, nonprofits and other charitable groups can make the most efficient use of their available resources during the holidays to deliver goods to those in need in cities all over the country.

One of the most popular ways to help others at the end of the year is to provide free Thanksgiving and holiday meals for local homeless populations. According to The Blade, a newspaper published in Toledo, Ohio, local organizations will be serving thousands of mealsover the next several weeks. In fact, Dan Rogers, president and chief executive officer of Cherry Street Mission Ministries, said his charitable group will be responsible for more than 7,000 meals this year, which is about 1,000 more than the they served in 2012. The Bradenton Herald, a news publication in Bradenton, Fla., said nonprofit organizations around West Florida have taken similar measures during the holidays to provide quality food to the neediest individuals. Our Daily Bread, a local organization that specializes in feeding the hungry, recently offered a Thanksgiving meal in which nearly 400 people attended. The Herald reported Our Daily Bread had to order 35 turkeys, 30 pies, 18 boxes of instant mashed potatoes and several cans of green beans, cranberry sauce and other products.

The logistics of feeding the hungry
The need to successfully feed such a large number of people requires careful organization and planning on the part of both charitable organizations and food distributors. Rogers explained the logistics of these initiatives can get overly complicated - especially when people are targeting underserved individuals in rural areas and suburbs. As a result, nonprofit groups often need all the help they can find during the busy holiday season. Odessa American, a newspaper based in Odessa, Tex., said many companies depend on seasonal hires during the last several weeks of the year to ensure deliveries are made and donated products end up in the hands of the intended people.

Other programs around the nation that provide meals beyond the holiday season require operational consistency on a regular basis. A recent report from The New York Times highlighted the efforts of the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition in Los Angeles, which sends a truck to a specific intersection in Hollywood every evening at 6:30 p.m. with meals for the homeless. However, in response to growing complaints from area homeowners, members of the Los Angeles City Council have proposed a rule that would ban organizations from feeding members of the homeless population in public places.

Regardless of whether such changes actually occur, groups such as the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition will continue to rely heavily on the need to streamline their operations while transporting and delivering food at a limited overhead cost. Nonprofits that depend primarily on donations often have limited resources. Investing in automated tool such as routing software and logistics software can make the details of such initiatives run much more smoothly - especially during the busiest seasons. Instead of spending money hiring part-time workers to make up for the increase in activity during the holidays, distributors and fleet managers can leverage technology to automate many of the most complicated tasks. As a result, charitable organizations around the country can serve their missions and spread the year-end cheer with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.