During the COVID-19 crisis, nearly one-third of people living in the Washington, DC area struggled to access food. Families with children and non-white families were hit the hardest, a dire situation worsened by rising rents, low wages, and an uneven economic recovery.
All of which brings us to the remarkable story of DC Central Kitchen (DCCK), a local nonprofit organization that has been fighting hunger and poverty for over 30 years. DCCK recently amped up its hunger-fighting game with software donated by Appian, an AI and process automation company headquartered in the DC area. DCCK officials say the software has helped their organization scale efforts to transform thousands of pounds of wasted food into millions of healthy meals and distribute them to children, families, and seniors in the DC area.
“Our relationship with Appian is special,” said Andy Finke, Chief Operating Officer at DC Central Kitchen. “It’s a real partnership with a level of engagement and support that we haven’t traditionally experienced. We’ve been able to transform our business operations, get rid of paper, save countless hours of manual work, and better measure performance. The automation technology we’re using today would likely have been out of reach for us otherwise.”
Using their new software, DCCK staffers in the organization’s Community Meals program can now digitally track food items, menus, and orders. In the past, this work was paper-based, manual, and error-prone. But with its now-automated system, DCCK gets instantaneous updates on orders and deliveries, automatically collects performance data for analysis, and manages the entire Community Meals program digitally.
As COVID-19 swept through the country’s workplaces, more than 100 million working-age Americans tested positive for the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Workplaces emerged as a primary source of contagion, but DCCK cooks, drivers, and other critical staffers couldn’t work remotely. They have to be onsite to cook, serve meals, and deliver food. During the worst of the pandemic, DCCK protected staffers from the virus by deploying a workforce safety application from Appian that helped critical staff be able to safely work on site.
Later on, DCCK worked with Appian to build their Workforce Development Management application, which provides a centralized location for the nonprofit’s Culinary Job Training (CJT) staff to track admissions, grades, and attendance for culinary students as well as automate alumni outreach. Future plans call for the application to be expanded to let current and past students stay connected and take advantage of DCCK resources via an Alumni Hub. Meanwhile, Appian and DCCK are considering building and deploying a new volunteer management application that would allow DCCK to operate more efficiently, better manage projects, and scale up operations.
“I love DC Central Kitchen's mission to use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities,” says Appian Senior Software Developer Tim Carroll. “And I love that Appian's process automation technology has made DCCK more efficient and that we've furthered their ability to carry out that mission. Ever since my first project with Appian almost nine years ago, I've believed we could do great things for charitable organizations. I'm proud to say that our partnership with DC Central Kitchen has demonstrated just that.”