1 in 5 Philadelphians face food insecurity.
As a result, 302,685 people are struggling with hunger in Philadelphia.
But community volunteers are working to change that. Since July 2020, more than 25 community fridges have popped up around the city. Volunteers set up, clean, stock, and maintain these fridges while community members and sometimes, larger partners like restaurants and grocery stores, donate food.
The system operates off the simple principle: take what you need and give what you can.
Photograph by Aaron Salsbury courtesy of Grid.
While some fridges are already providing thousands of pounds of food each month, there are ways that digital innovations can be leveraged to make community fridges even more successful.
One challenge community fridges face is a lack of data – How many people are they feeding? When are the highest-trafficked times and are fridges stocked when food is most sought? Is food going or already bad? Is a wide enough range of food being offered? What are the most popular items and can more of it be offered? What’s the ratio of those donating food versus those utilizing the food?
Getting enough donations to keep the fridges stocked is another problem – How can neighbors be encouraged to donate food? Can a product or campaign elicit donations?
A simple digital innovation could help solve these challenges.
Currently on the market: low-cost wireless sensors that can send alerts when food is about to or has spoiled. An expansion on this technology could address the other challenges posed – additional sensors could notify those in need when the fridge is stocked. And these same sensors could track data about traffic, popular hours, and stock for those who run the fridges and local donators.
In fact, to increase community donations, these same devices could be distributed to those who live in the neighborhood to keep in their fridge so they can be notified when food is about to go bad to encourage them to donate to a local fridge to go to someone who can use it before it goes to waste.
Analyzing the customer is vital to understanding the market.
Identifying the Elements of Value to identify elements that apply to the target segment will aid in a deeper understanding of customer needs.
There are two target markets for the sensors – neighbors who donate food, and local folks who are in need of food.
The value to each is different. Donators will feel good about helping their community and not letting food in their fridges go to waste. Folks in need can get food to feed their families at no cost.
Many of the fridges already have donation sites set up for monetary donations. It could be possible that they could invest in the sensors with this money or a company that makes them might be able to donate.
Would this innovation solve the problems community fridges face? What other digital innovations could make community fridges more successful?