NYC Food Donations Network

Food donation network showing the transfer of food from donors to recipient organizations from April 2019 to April 2020.

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How can food donation systems be used to reduce the amount of edible food sent to landfills? Can we track food donations? How well is a donation system working? Should we employ different strategies for encouraging food donations in different areas? UNC Public Policy and Environmental Studies 2020 graduate Allie Omens focused her honors thesis on tracking and evaluating New York City’s donateNYC Food Portal. The portal exists to reduce food waste by notifying the best-matched recipient organization (i.e. food banks or pantries) when a donor (i.e. a bakery or restaurant) posts a listing of available food.

Omens worked with the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to show where food donations have occurred over the last year, from April 2019 to April 2020. The Research Hub’s Data Visualization Services Librarian assisted Omens in creating an interactive Tableau dashboard as a companion piece for her thesis. The dashboard displays the origin and destination zip codes of the donations, as well as the size of the donations (based on weight), donation commodities, and donor and recipient organization types.

Understanding the network of the donations could be used to inform the development of tailored strategies for improving utilization of the donateNYC Food Portal. Omens said she enjoyed getting to work with the Data Visualization Librarian and greatly appreciated their guidance in creating the Food Donations Network tool.