Success Stories

Insights to Enable Food Distribution

Applying visualization and clear metrics to analyze and report data for better decision making

Project Overview

Food is a basic need for an increasing number of families facing food insecurity due to Covid-19. Many school districts started feeding adults in addition to children to ensure children eat their full meal without having to split it among family members. When stay-at-home orders led to a quick shift to remote learning, students were not receiving the meals they would normally obtain at school. This was particularly impactful for students who qualify for free and reduced school meal programs.

This large school district acted rapidly to establish a “Grab and Go” approach using a subset of school campus locations to ensure children and their families were fed. Each Grab and Go site also incorporated local community non-profits and in-kind donations as part of the distribution process. Volunteers were retained and educated on complying with CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of district employees and the community. Each of the 60+ sites offered pre-packaged breakfast and lunch to every child aged 0-18 and every adult in need.

Client Challenge

The Food Services division was operating in a “crisis mode” and was forced to quickly stand up a distribution process including new Covid-19 safety procedures. Other challenges included:

  • Expansion of meal services to feed the broader community including non-district adults and children, which resulted in historically high meal volumes
  • Minimal visibility into demand added complexity to plan for an already challenging operation (e.g., storage capacity, traffic control, social distancing protocols, staffing, etc.)
  • Limited insight into data across 60+ sites due to a time-consuming, pen-and-paper tallying process
  • Difficulty collecting meaningful data and developing insights to help optimize costs, operations and staffing


  • Worked with the data division to receive daily or weekly updates of food demand and staffing counts, transcribed from pen-and-paper to raw Excel data
  • Met with key stakeholders to define what metrics would help drive decisions
  • Analyzed business scenarios and operating models to uncover potential future constraints and efficiency gains


  • Provided the district with enriched data that would allow them to adjust their operations and gain efficiencies with a level of confidence (location trends, counts, meal distribution volumes)
  • Created a data model and provided visualizations (heatmaps, graphs) to help with decision-making
  • Coached them on how to use the data to drive business decisions
  • Delivered weekly reports with insights to key stakeholders


  • Used data to drive a decision around continuing the summer operational model, including which locations were most effective or could be slowed/stopped
  • Helped the client gain an understanding of key metrics such as optimal staffing levels and trends on meals served per school

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