NCNU's Smart Food Bank platform helps optimize distribution of goods
Xin-mei Li, Wen-hsueh Chen and Hao-ming Hong
Wen Hsueh Chen (陳文學), associate professor of the Department of Public Policy and Distribution, National Chi Nan University (NCNU), collaborated with Hao Ming Hong (洪晧銘) and Xin Mei Li (李欣玫), students of the Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering, to address issues of donated goods in terms of unequal distribution, surplus, and a large amount of waste of donated materials by establishing a food bank. The "Just Enough to Meet Needs" goods sharing platform designed by them was selected as a candidate for the Sinyi Charity Foundation's project "Seeking 100 Mutual Support and Symbiotic Approaches during the Pandemic."
In 2016, one of the local governance projects coordinated by NCNU and Nantou County was the promotion of food banks. After active participation and analysis by Wen-hsueh Chen, four blind spots related to donated goods were identified: unequal distribution among organizations receiving goods, seasonal patterns in donations, low turnover and poor rotation, and lack of transparency in terms of information. To address these issues, a sharing platform for managing goods was established so that each organization can get the goods it needs. With programming assistance from the faculty and students of the Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering, Wen-hsueh Chen established the website of the sharing platform.
Hao-ming Hong of the Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering found that in the past, most inventory statistics were done using Excel software; however, due to the large quantities of goods, it was difficult to detect whether certain items had expired, along with other issues. Therefore, when the new electronic platform was designed, emphasis was placed on simplifying goods management, single-window consolidation, and 24-hour status updates. The platform allows any groups in need of goods to check inventories so that they can directly apply to the organization that has the goods in stock. The system not only reduces waste but also promotes mutual support and resource sharing.
Xin-mei Li analyzed the efficacy of the platform from the beginning of 2021 to the present and found that within a short period of six months, the amount of goods exchanged between organizations has increased from somewhere between NT$10,000 – NT$20,000 to more than NT$100,000. Through a collaboration with the Puli Township Office, excess goods are provided to residents in need, which allows the maximal usage of goods and significantly reduces waste.
Wen-hsueh Chen pointed out that although most students majoring in public policy and administration aspire to become public servants, it is essential that they develop problem-solving skills. Issues found in the field are the best textbooks. Through rich and diverse aspects of learning and cooperation with technical talents in cross-disciplinary fields, students are able to learn by taking practical actions while cultivating the ability to learn by trial and error.