Engineering graduates at Cornell College in america have developed an algorithm to assist meals banks make higher use of their donations.
Cornell College programs engineers examined knowledge from a busy New York state meals bank and, utilizing a brand new algorithm, discovered methods to higher distribute and allocate meals, elevating diet amongst its patrons within the course of.
“In order to serve thousands of people and combat food insecurity, our algorithm helps food banks manage their food resources more efficiently – and patrons get more nutrition,” stated lead writer Faisal Alkaabneh, PhD ’20, Cornell’s first doctoral graduate in programs engineering.
The group studied knowledge from the Meals Bank of the Southern Tier, which serves six counties in upstate New York. In 2019, the meals bank distributed 10.9 million meals to roughly 21,700 individuals every week. Practically 19 p.c of its patrons are seniors and about 41 p.c are youngsters, in response to the group’s knowledge.
Final 12 months, the meals bank distributed 2.eight million kilos of recent fruit by way of 157 accomplice businesses and moved about 3.four million kilos of meals by way of native cell pantries.
The algorithm that Oliver Gao and his group used to find out the best way to allocate a number of meals classes effectively, primarily based upon pantry requests, demonstrated a 7.73 p.c enchancment in effectivity between 2018 and 2019, in comparison with commonplace meals bank allocation practices. Their calculations additionally confirmed a 3 p.c enchancment in diet utilizing a greater variety of meals, Alkaabneh stated.
A posh concern for an algorithm to resolve
Most meals banks face multi-dimensional complexities, as they coordinate a number of meals classes to distribute finite sources corresponding to canned items, recent produce, meats and dairy.
“One pound of beef is not the same as a pound of vegetables or a pound of bread,” Alkaabneh stated. “It’s so challenging from a mathematical perspective. When you have more than one similar dimension, the problem becomes exponentially more difficult to solve.”
Based on Gao, the important thing goal for producing an efficient algorithm trusted concisely and mathematically defining the issue.
“It’s a complex equity, efficiency and effectiveness issue,” he stated. “We are able to simply remedy a mathematical model if the one focus is on effectivity, or effectiveness. However we confronted exponential, multi-dimensional complexity, widespread for many meals banks.
“We hope our research is used as a baseline model for food banks improving practices and boosting nutrition and policies to help people at risk (of) hunger,” he concluded.
The article was revealed within the journal Omega.