19 April 2017, by Jake McKenna
Recently I went and volunteered at Cambridge City Food Bank, an organisation that helps provide emergency food to local people in crisis. They’re an entirely volunteer-run organisation that mostly relies on donations of food by the public. They work on a referrals basis, so not just anyone can turn up and ask for some food (which makes sense, but I hadn’t thought of it before), and they also sometimes provide other help, such as tokens/vouchers for top-up energy meters.
I was working at their office/warehouse and got shown around. This is their main sorting area, where all the donations they collect get weighed and categorized:
After this, the volunteers create boxes containing set amounts of various things for a set amount of people – this is a box for 3/4 people for a few days of food:
The boxes then get sent out to the various distribution points for pickup.
What I was actually doing was somewhat unrelated. The problem they had was that their accounting system for donations was set up slightly strangely – they were using what I think is double-entry accounting, where they were recording both an invoice and a payment for donations, which got slightly strange when they forgot to enter the invoice and the month rolled over, or something like that. So what I was tasked to do was to convert all the Invoice-Payment pairs into Sales Receipts in their Quickbooks accounting system. Sounds like something you could script, but there didn’t seem any easy way to do it, and there were quite a few edge-cases, so I ended up just doing a lot of copying and pasting.
Some interesting things I learned:
- People are selective in what food they donate – e.g. they are often short of sugar because people think ‘that’s bad’, but people still need sugar!
- Food bank usage is probably not growing as fast as the leftist media would suggest but is growing.