Scheduling food bank collections and deliveries to ensure food safety and improve access
Food banks are privately-owned non-profit organizations responsible for the receipt, processing, storage, and distribution of food items to charitable agencies. These charitable agencies in turn distribute food to individuals at risk of hunger. Food banks receive donated food from national and local sources, such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and supermarkets. Local sources with frequent high-volume donations justify the use of food bank vehicles for collection. Food bank vehicles are also used to deliver food to rural charitable agencies that are located beyond a distance safe for perishable food to travel without spoilage. Due to limited funds, food banks can only afford to sparingly use their capital on non-food items. This requires exploring more cost effective food delivery and collection strategies. The goal of this paper is to develop transportation schedules that enable the food bank to both (i) collect food donations from local sources and (ii) to deliver food to charitable agencies. We identify satellite locations, called food delivery points (FDPs), where agencies can receive food deliveries. A set covering model is developed to determine the assignment of agencies to an FDP. Both vehicle capacity and food spoilage constraints are considered during assignment. Using the optimal assignment of agencies to FDPs, we identify a weekly transportation schedule that addresses collection and distribution of donated food and incorporates constraints related to food safety, operator workday, collection frequency, and fleet capacity.