Who they are ?

 

Incorporated in 1982, the Food Bank Network of Somerset County, Inc. is a non-governmental, non-sectarian, 501(c)3 not-for-profit public benefit organization. The mission of The Food Bank Network is to distribute food and to provide other basic human needs to those less fortunate in our community in a manner recognizing and advancing self-worth and human dignity.

www.restosducoeur.org

 

 

Dataiku NYC Office
ThanksGiving Food Drive for Somerset County FoodBank
November 4th to November 22nd

 

 

 

What did we do ?

Have you ever had a food drive at work where it ended up with a few sad cans of food and maybe a few boxes, but nothing else? We were really afraid of that happening when we decided on hosting a food drive at our Dataiku NYC office. We were not afraid of this result because we do not care about helping those who need help, but because many of us are incredibly busy with our work and may not have the time necessary to dedicate to a food drive.  

As part of our work with Ikigai, our Dataiku for Good program, we wanted to do a program around the holidays to give back to the community. Knowing that food banks are generally at their lowest for supplies during the holiday season, it seemed like an obvious choice to help. We also knew that we are extremely competitive people at Dataiku, so we hatched a plan… 

Most food banks rely solely on the good nature of people to just bring in food. We relied on that, but also added a competitive element. We realize that sounds off-putting from the start but stay with me. 

We reached out to a local food bank (Somerset County FoodBank) to understand the most in-demand items they have. Based on that, we assigned points to each of these items. Meaning for each item that was donated, a team gets X amount of points.

Some facts

It was slow at the start, with only few items coming in. We were worried that teams were not getting into it, instead, we’re going to only donate a few things, and it would be a cliche food donation.

Then we began to hear rumblings of teams coordinating and using game theory to try to win. When designing this challenge we had forgotten that about 60% of our coworkers have some type of higher education in statistics or computers, so they are very familiar with game theory. Given that this challenge had a time limit, where it ended on Friday, November 20th at 5 pm, several teams wanted to get as close as possible to that deadline so that no one else could beat them and they would know exactly how much they needed to donate/how many points they needed to win. 

Also, teams were doing the math to understand the best point to dollar ratio of different items to see which items they could donate for the most amount of points. This is where it got interesting. Each team got a different answer. This mostly came from different teams finding different lowest prices. From what we can tell, based on where you are located Amazon may show you a different price for items online, as well as the time of day. This caused different teams to believe that diapers, mac and cheese, and canned goods were the best items to purchase. Some teams came up early hoping they would post an early enough lead that no one would want to pool enough resources to beat them.  

In total, we raised so much food for those who are in need. Very like more than we would have if we just did a  traditional “please bring in your food items”. We are a competitive company, that is why we work at a start-up. We also care tremendously about our community and those around us. This is why we have the ikigai initiative to allow us to give back to our community in ways we may not have been able to otherwise. 

The number of items that we donated seem massive in size. It took us several trips with a pick-up truck to get them all to the food pantry.  However, it was all gone within a week. The woman we coordinated with was in awe of the amount of stuff we brought, saying we would be helping dozens of families. When we asked how long it would last them, she said at max two weeks before everything would be gone. We felt disheartened by this as we knew there wouldn’t be more pickup trucks filled with diapers following our donation. Instead, there would be the emptiness on those shelves that we saw when we walked in.

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