Fiserv Interns Take on Food Rescue

When Katie Beacham was planning a volunteer day for student interns at the financial technology company Fiserv, she had an idea. Why not task them with applying design thinking to a social problem, like hunger and the logistical challenges of food rescue?

Every summer, the Alpharetta-based company hires college student interns interested in pursuing careers in financial services technology. As Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Fiserv, Katie was familiar with Second Helpings Atlanta (SHA), whose volunteers regularly rescue surplus food from the Fiserv cafeteria and deliver it to Mary Hall Freedom House. Fiserv also recently signed on as a corporate sponsor of SHA’s October 1 fundraiser, Food & Field Fest.

Katie proposed the idea to SHA Executive Director Joe Labriola who was excited about partnering with the interns. On July 18th, Joe and Carlos Diaz (SHA’s Partner Agency/Food Donor Coordinator) presented the group of 16 students with an overview of Second Helpings Atlanta. Then they described two food rescue challenges the organization is facing.

The first is the need for more cold storage. Many budget-strapped social service agencies would like to receive food from SHA, but they lack industrial refrigerators or freezers to hold the donated food, much of it fresh and perishable. While most SHA deliveries average enough food for roughly 200 meals, the typical agency feeds fewer than 100 people a day. Without adequate cold storage, smaller agencies cannot take advantage of SHA donations.

diagram of food rescue

The second challenge involves managing driving schedules. During the busy holiday season, many of SHA’s 255 Volunteer Drivers are unavailable. With more than 140 routes each week, finding substitute drivers is a massive logistical undertaking, especially since absences often come up at the last minute. The challenge is compounded when Partner Agencies limit hours or close during holiday periods.

Even before Joe and Carlos had finished his presenting, the Fiserv interns were bursting with ideas. The group followed the design-thinking process. Joe and Carlos were peppered with questions, flip charts were filled with possible solutions and the interns voted on what to recommend. Within a few hours the group had devised these options for Joe and the SHA team to consider.

  • Provide SHA’s largest Partner Agencies with extra cold storage and use those sites as distribution hubs for smaller agencies.
  • Develop a list of potential new agencies by neighborhood and offer them food on a last-minute basis when it is available. One-time delivery of free, nutritious food might encourage them to become SHA Partner Agencies.
  • Consolidate food rescue pickups during the holidays.
  • Combine multiple routes during the holidays by using the SHA refrigerated truck to rescue and deliver donated food to SHA’s largest Partner Agency or to the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
Group photo of Fiserv student interns

Joe was delighted with the outcome. “I really enjoyed working with these creative young people. Their ability to apply technical and process expertise to real-world problems like food rescue is a win for Second Helpings Atlanta, and for their future employers.”

Second Helpings Atlanta is grateful to Fiserv for the opportunity. Good luck to this great class of Fiserv interns!