Flexing IT muscle helps ramp up NYC food rescue operations

This information provided by Smart Cities Council Compassionate Cities.
Tue, 2017-02-28 11:01 -- Compassionate C...

You don't hear a lot about the behind-the-scenes operations that run major nonprofits like City Harvest's food rescue operations in New York City. But as the story below points out, making information technology  systems work as efficiently as possible has benefits that keep on giving. -- Philip Bane

City Harvest rescues surplus food from grocers, farms, restaurants and manufacturers and distributes it free of charge to New York City food pantries, soup kitchens and other community food programs. Last year City Harvest, which has been operating since 1982, collected and distributed 55 million pounds of excess food. More than 15,000 volunteers assist its hunger-relief efforts every year

As the nonprofit's head of technology and information security explains it, IT plays an important role in that food rescue work.

“Consider the intricate planning required to schedule 22 trucks averaging 360 food pickups and deliveries a day," says James Safonov.  "We’ve developed smart algorithms that update truck routes and delivery instructions in real time based on storage space, preferred delivery days and types of food, and the specific food items we have available.”

To better serve its community partners and fight food insecurity in NYC, City Harvest looks to cutting-edge technology. Last year it selected the Cisco HyperFlex System to host virtual desktops and enhance operations in a secure environment.

Previously, employees worked on physical desktop computers and their applications ran on traditional servers. But this traditional arrangement was not ideal for a growing organization – and with hunger a persistent challenge in NYC, City Harvest works hard to expand its operations.

"Efficient infrastructure is helping us ramp up to rescue millions more pounds of food each year than we do today," Safonov says.

Virtual desktops in minutes
The new technology allows City Harvest to create hundreds of virtual desktops in minutes and easily add additional processing power using Cisco UCS blades. In addition, troubleshooting and support are handled with a single call to Cisco to resolve any issue with servers, networking, or storage.

City Harvest was one of the first nonprofits in the U.S. to adopt this new technology and Safonov says the benefits are multiple.

Cisco HyperFlex gives us the opportunity to scale as City Harvest grows to feed more people,” he says, adding that the Cisco technologies they've implemented help make their truck routes more efficient and desktops and applications run more securely.

The technology has also reduced costs – eliminating the need to spend $100,000 on a new cooling system in its Manhattan data room and a 75% savings on endpoints.

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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