Achieving Equity, Effectiveness, and Efficiency in Food Bank Operations: Strategies for Feeding America with Implications for Global Hunger Relief

  • Irem Sengul Orgut
  • Luther G. Brock III
  • Lauren Berrings DavisEmail author
  • Julie Simmons Ivy
  • Steven Jiang
  • Shona D. Morgan
  • Reha Uzsoy
  • Charlie Hale
  • Earline Middleton
Part of the International Series in Operations Research & Management Science book series (ISOR)


One in six Americans (14.3 % of households) reported being food insecure at some time during the year 2013 (i.e., they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members). This translates to 17.5 million food insecure households and 49.1 million Americans, 33.3 million adults and 15.8 million children living in food insecure households (Coleman-Jensen et al. 2011, 2014). This slight decrease from 14.5 % in 2012 was not statistically significant and marks the third consecutive year that the USDA’s annual hunger survey has found food insecurity at some of the highest levels since the government started the report in 1995.

There is a growing body of research addressing logistics and supply chain management issues in the area of humanitarian relief. Much of this work has focused in the emergency management domain, addressing critical needs of those affected in the aftermath of a natural disaster. However, the chronic epidemic of poverty and hunger in the United States can also be considered a ‘natural disaster’. While this disaster is characterized by being prolonged with a gradual onset (like hurricanes or tornados), it also warrants significant attention given the recent statistics on hunger and poverty and the emerging congressional climate to ‘remove the safety net’ of government programs to support this particular population. Prior research in the hunger relief domain has primarily been conducted in the social sciences addressing such issues as equity and allocation policy and ignoring their relationship to effectiveness and efficiency. A thorough understanding of the partners (private, non-profit, and governmental) that work together to provide food assistance is needed from a systems perspective.

The opportunity to engage in an overall engineering/operations research effort to improve access to food through equitable, efficient, and effective operations of nonprofits and government agencies has yet to be fully explored. Therefore, in order to effectively advance operations research and inform policy development in this field, this chapter has been written in partnership with collaborators from the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina (FBCENC) to create a collective vision for the future of research in food bank operations. This chapter creates a framework for operational decision making at food banks, aimed at (1) more effectively translating the ongoing operations research work into practice at a wider range of food banks; (2) identifying synergistic research opportunities for the operations research and public policy communities to collaborate in the area of hunger relief; and (3) identifying critical, open problems in food aid distribution.


Hunger relief Humanitarian logistics Food banks Food insecurity Humanitarian supply chains Food aid distribution Fairness Equity Nonprofit operations Social welfare systems Donations management Poverty Systems engineering Emergency food network 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irem Sengul Orgut
    • 1
  • Luther G. Brock III
    • 2
  • Lauren Berrings Davis
    • 2
    Email author
  • Julie Simmons Ivy
    • 1
  • Steven Jiang
    • 2
  • Shona D. Morgan
    • 3
  • Reha Uzsoy
    • 1
  • Charlie Hale
    • 4
  • Earline Middleton
    • 4
  1. 1.Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems EngineeringNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Department of Industrial and Systems EngineeringNorth Carolina Agricultural and Technical State UniversityGreensboroUSA
  3. 3.School of Business and EconomicsNorth Carolina Agricultural and Technical State UniversityGreensboroUSA
  4. 4.Food Bank of Central & Eastern North CarolinaRaleighUSA

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