This scientific paper analyses the benefits of agreements between charity organizations providing meals (e.g. soup kitchens) and the food industry. It shows that structural food donations reduce the overall costs of the soup kitchen and can contribute towards a good variety in the meals offered. Moreover, due to the redistribution of food, the overall waste levels in the supply chain are reduced.
Charitable organisations, such as food banks and soup kitchens are important contributors to food and meal provision to socially isolated and/or poor people. These organisations usually work on low budgets and will therefore benefit from surplus food from retailers or food companies. In this research we investigated the potential benefits when there are structural agreements between a party donating surplus food and a soup kitchen. In addition to the structural agreements, we also analysed the effect of the remaining shelf life of the products donated, the number of food donations available and the effect of transportation and ingredient costs for the soup kitchen.
With an optimization model we optimize the menu planning of the soup kitchen, based on the available donations and the option to purchase products. The soup kitchen has to make several decisions on a daily basis. First they have to decide which donations they want to accept, and secondly they decide on the meal to provide. Based on the second decision, additional ingredients can be purchased.
The results of the paper show that with the optimization model most of the donated ingredients can be integrated in the meal planning of the soup kitchen. When the number of donations increases the overall costs of the soup kitchen will be reduced, as less products have to be purchased. A soup kitchen benefits more from donations when the donated products can still be stored for several days. This allows more flexibility in the menu planning, and therefore more donations can be used and less food is wasted. Moreover, a higher meal variety can be obtained, which is beneficial for the consumers of the soup kitchen.
Marjolein E. Buisman, Rene Haijema, Renzo Akkerman, Jacqueline M. Bloemhof, Donation management for menu planning at soup kitchens, European Journal of Operational Research (2018), doi: 10.1016/j.ejor.2018.06.005