JF&CS Volunteer News Spring 2013

Family Table grocery bagsLast summer, JF&CS Family Table Food and Volunteer Coordinator Tamar Moskowitz sat down to plan the monthly food distribution. Over the next three hours, she cross-referenced shopping lists, maps, client addresses, and volunteers. With 80 volunteers and almost 150 destinations, the possible number of delivery routes was in the hundreds of thousands! But with the help of an innovative new program, a process that took several hours each month now takes only minutes.

Volunteer Jay Gainsboro noticed Tamar's hard work and thought, "There's got to be a better way." He reached out to colleague George Roberts for help. George is a software developer with the time and inclination for pro bono work. He quickly developed a computer program to enhance Family Table's ability to match drivers with delivery locations. "I wanted to make sure the food got delivered and make Tamar's job as easy as possible," said George. "Not only does this program save us time, but it allows us to give our volunteers the best possible experience when they come to Family Table," added Tamar.

Over the fall, Tamar and Steve Smith, Database Administrator for JF&CS Volunteer Services, piloted the program alongside the usual process. The program calculates the shortest route between stops based on the longitude and latitude of JF&CS Headquarters in Waltham, the driver's location, and the recipient's home. They quickly realized the advantages of being able to tell volunteers how many miles they were driving and to calculate how many miles were driven in total. While the previous routes varied widely, each volunteer now drives significantly fewer miles. The program also offers consistency to drivers who delivered to Brookline one time and Framingham the next under the old process.

"We used to get stuck at the end of the long assignment process with deliveries that we couldn't place. This program is able to pinpoint and tell us who is the closest volunteer to those locations," said Tamar. "Distribution is a puzzle with so many factors to consider. Using this program, we are able to place a larger number of volunteers in a much shorter time," said Tamar. "Now we have a very logical process to follow. It's one more way we can be more efficient so that we can ultimately help more people.

As the largest kosher food pantry in New England, Family Table depends on a network of dedicated volunteers to pack and deliver groceries to almost 400 families in Greater Boston and on the North Shore. Each month, Family Table clients receive fresh and frozen produce along with wholesome groceries, personal hygiene products, and Jewish holiday items.

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.

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