With food insecurity at an all-time high, keeping communities fed is now more important than ever.
The Love Fridge is a Chicago-based initiative created to nourish communities through mutual aid by offering solutions to food scarcity and food waste. They place community refrigerators across the city that provide neighbors the opportunity to donate food as well as take what they need, ensuring accessible food 24/7.
Our team built a short-term consulting engagement with The Love Fridge that created lasting solutions that addressed two of their need that they had neither the resources nor skill set to touch.
- QR Code Fridge Management Checklists that linked a series of QR codes to Google Forms to a single Google Sheet that displayed and summarized the current state of each of their fridge’s hygiene with helpful metrics like “days since last cleaning” and more.
- Wi-Fi Fridge Inventory Scale prototype that not only was built from scratch using load sensors and a Raspberry Pi but also was linked to a real-time web-chart to display readings at 5 min increments of the current incremental weight of the food contents of one of their fridges.
The top lessons learned (or advice) from this project were 1) fully understand their needs, 2) set clear expectations, and 3) value their time. Initially our team tried to deliver a solution that didn’t necessarily fit their needs and we had to shift to a listen-first model (which was much more successful). The volunteers that support TLF (and most charitable organizations) tended to ask for a lot and it was crucial to remove all ambiguity about what you plan to deliver (since you can’t do everything and openly stating what you’re doing will help to strengthen the relationship a lot). Finally, as consultants, your charity (or any client) will not always want a high meeting cadence until you prove out or create a sense that you’re creating value for them (once we started to deliver for them there was a clear shift it their behavior, responsiveness, and level of engagement).
Overall this was a very positive and rewarding experience for our team and we learned a lot about the nature of project management in the field (: