Inside the logistical challenges of a food charity

daniel arklay secondbite food charity

It’s one thing to be a regular transport-based business that only concentrates on getting a product from warehouse to store.

But imagine if you added in the complication of also having to collect the product first, and from multiple locations.

Oh…and add in the stress of dealing with perishable food as well!

SecondBite is a food charity that “exists to provide access to fresh, nutritious food for people in need across Australia”.

The team at SecondBite recently added Verizon Connect into their vehicles and we thought it would be interesting to find out more about the operation and how they run their fleet.

I caught up with Daniel Arklay, National Operations and Logistics Manager at SecondBite for a chat…

Hi Daniel, thanks for joining us.

Nice to talk to you.

Can you tell us a little bit of the story of SecondBite, we’re used to talking to people from fairly regular transport companies, this story though is a different kettle of fish?

It is, absolutely. SecondBite exists to provide nutritious food to community food programs that are supporting people who experiencing disadvantage.

So that disadvantage could be people that are experiencing homelessness, family violence, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, new arrivals, school breakfast programs and youth and family programs.

Unfortunately there is a lot of disadvantage in Australia, approximately four million people live on or below the poverty line, so there is a tremendous amount of need out there.

SecondBite rescues fresh and nutritious food that is still good to eat that would normally end up in landfill and delivers it free of charge to these charities who are supporting these people who are doing it tough.

There appears to not only be a lot of need in the community, but there also seems to be a lot of food wastage in the industry too, so were talking about a solution to two problems?

Absolutely there is, approximately eight billion dollars worth of food is wasted from paddock to plate every year in Australia, so as a country we tend to produce around 25 to 40% more food than is actually required.

So, knowing that some of that food is going to some really good places and certainly helping people out is a good story that SecondBite can be a part of.

Check out an audio version of this interview here.

I guess it’s a two fold operation where you have to collect the food, but do you then repackage it? How does that work and how do you get it ready for the end consumer?

Yes so SecondBite has two main programs, as well as our direct delivery model which operates in all the metropolitan areas and capital cities in Australia.

That involves our warehouses and our vans that will collect and aggregate that product back predominantly from our major partner, Coles Supermarkets.

Coles will provide any of the food that’s not in a salable condition, it gets aggregated back at our warehouse and then re-purposed into more agency sized orders.

So an agency will request a certain kilo amount of mixed fruit and vegetables, bakery items, meats and dairy, and then that’s put aside for the agency to either collect direct from the warehouse or our vans will deliver direct to site.

Our second program is community connect where SecondBite facilitates the donor and agency relationship so the agency will collect directly from a retailer, and again Coles, and then they will take that food direct back to their food program.

You’re running a fleet of 27 vehicles, how do you keep them running as effectively as possible?

It’s one of those things where each of our state managers has worked really hard on trying to maximize the efficiencies of what our vehicles are doing.

In terms of value for money, SecondBite is dollar for dollar the best value proposition in the food rescue sector.

Last year we rescued over 11 million kilos of nutritious food nationally and that provided 22 million healthy meals, or approximately fifty thousands meals a day, so for every dollar invested into SecondBite we can provide four meals to people in need.

Can you tell us a little bit about how the fleet actually works? Do you have vehicles that are dedicated to the pick-up operations and other vehicles dedicated to delivery? Do they work across different regions?

Most of our vehicles will work across different areas both in pick-up and delivery, again it depends on what food needs to go out and in what locations.

So from a metro area our trucks will predominantly rely on collecting all of our bulk product, so that will be direct from farm gate, distribution centres, packing sheds and the larger retailers where there’s bulk product available in terms of pallets or bins.

Where as our vans concentrate more so on the retail, back of house level, so accessing the stores and the smaller retailers where it may end up being crates or boxes as opposed to pallets.

So the fleet does work fairly succinctly around whats available for collection, but also in terms of being able to redistribute food, particularly in some of those more regional areas, it is better for us to be able to maximize what can get out to the community and again that’s where our trucks will take the bulk of the product to those more regional centres.

OK, and you’ve invested in telematics, how has that changed the operation?

It’s been a massive improvement and it’s something that our state managers are really heavily reliant upon now since we’ve had the installation of the program into the vehicles.

First and foremost its’s from a workplace health and safety perspective so we know where our vehicles and our drivers are and if there’s any particular issue on the road we have visibility on that so we can contact our drivers direct and make sure that everything’s OK, particularly if a vehicle has been stationary for an extended period of time.

It also gives us maximum efficiency in terms of how our vehicles are being driven and what kind of fuel efficiency we’re getting from those vehicles.

The system also allows us to map out our routes more effectively, particularly using the replay side of things where we can see which way vehicles are going and if there’s anything specific that we can take up with that driver directly.

It’s almost instantaneous data that we can access and sit down and speak with our driving cohort to make sure that they’re operating the fleet in a safe and efficient manner and that is fantastic.

So for us it has paid for itself in the fact that we are able to identify where our fleet is at all times and have that real time data so that we can make effective decisions as things come up.

I always ask the question of people who have integrated telematics into their fleets if it has actually created more work? Is it a case of the more time you put into the more you get out of it?

Initially we were concerned that it would be a bit of work, but the team at Verizon Connect have been fantastic in terms of being able to upload a lot of the data that we’ve provided for them with all of our fleet.

There was an initial time outlay for our guys to make sure that the information that we were providing was accurate.

But the support that we get from Verizon Connect particularly has been tremendous and they’ve been able to upload most of that data for us so for us now its a case of sitting down, setting the report and the report will come through daily, weekly, monthly, whatever we set.

So all that data is captured and then it’s just a matter of time for the guys to read through the reports that we require at any duration of time so that there really isn’t an additional workload at all.

And the fact that it is providing to us some very accurate data means that it has actually has saved us some money, we’ve only had it on our vehicles for the past five months, and it’s already paid for itself in the efficiencies that we’ve been able to pick up just by being able to review that data in real time.

It’s a technology that many people who have experienced say they now couldn’t be without.

Absolutely, and there was some people who were interested initially when we started looking at fleet tracking and once people got an understanding of just how accurate the data is and what it can actually provide.

It’s not there to act as a big brother kind of thing where your manager is just looking at the computer watching every single screen of every single vehicle, and once people actually figure out that it’s about driving those efficiencies and maximizing the dollars, particularly being a charity we have to be very mindful of how we spend money and making sure that we’re maximizing our vehicles and our staff outputs to ensure we’re getting the maximum food out to people who need it.

So once the staffing group were able to understand the importance of having the tracking in the vehicle, and what it is actually dong in terms of providing those additional efficiencies, it’s been a dream and we couldn’t imagine operating without it.

Check out an audio version of this interview here.

Daniel, it sounds like you’re really impressed. What are your plans for SecondBite into the future?

We’re in every capital city at the moment and we’re just about to take over the Perth operation and re-brand it SecondBite, we had another partner group operating that for us.

At the moment we’re targeting 30 million kilos by the end of 2019-20 financial year so we have some pretty high numbers to try and achieve, but our target is to try and get eight meals to every dollar.

So we’re looking at trying to triple our output over the next three years and by doing that, obviously feeding more people – and that’s what it’s all about for us, making sure more people have access to fresh and nutritious food that is free.

About Joel Helmes 1827 Articles
Joel is the founder and CEO of Heavy Vehicles. With more than 20 years experience in the media, including more than 10 years heading up the car publication - Behind the Wheel, Joel is passionate about bringing a fresh perspective to the Australian road transport industry. Prior to his media career Joel worked for a number of years as a bus, truck and delivery driver.

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