How can we redesign the Lead Food Rescuer experience to improve efficiency, satisfaction, and volunteer retention?
At the end of the day, most American restaurants must discard their perfectly edible, leftover food that is unsellable to customers. In NYC, where 1 in 3 is food insecure, this is an enormous wasted opportunity. Rescuing Leftover Cuisine was founded by Robert Lee in 2013 in an attempt to tackle the complex twin issues of food waste and food insecurity by establishing a volunteer network of "food rescuers" who pick up and transport food to local shelters. RLC is able to work with smaller businesses that are passed up by larger food donation services, who cannot logistically run too many individual pick-ups, because most RLC volunteer pick-ups are done by foot. To date, RLC has worked with nearly 3000 volunteers to provide over 600,000 meals for many hungry people.
RLC depends on trained "Lead Volunteers" to commit to weekly shifts. Though there is a calendar of open events that any ad hoc volunteers can sign up for, RLC's partners rely on steady, consistent volunteers to pick up every day. Since most businesses pay for waste disposal, missing a shift could mean increased costs to the business as well as hungry mouths at the partnering shelters.
Though many Lead Volunteers are enthusiastic and committed to the cause, volunteer burn-out and attrition is a concern for RLC. Understanding how to better attract high potential volunteers, make their shift smoother and less burdensome, and improve retention will be critical to the survival and scaling of this organization.
Having grown up in a household that decried food waste, it pained me as a recent transplant to New York City to see the steady stream of perfectly edible food waste while so many food-insecure people were around the streets. After volunteering myself for a little while, I reached out to Robert to set up a design research project.
Using the double diamond design framework, my work was broken into 4 phases: Discovery, Synthesis, Ideation, and Creation.