AppGeo’s Priya Sankalia met with Sara Adams, Andre Lewis and Addy Waldie of the Trinity Alliance of the Capital Region (Albany, NY) to learn more about their organization and how they’ve adopted Bringfood.

Trinity Alliance is a human service organization focused on building strong and healthy families through health and well-being, education and employment services as a means of self-development.

More than a hundred years old, Trinity Alliance of the Capital Region began providing a place for neighbors and families to come together — and now has over 26 programs and 11 prevention programs for health and wellness.

At the start of March, 2020, Trinity Alliance’s CEO declared an agency state of emergency, having seen the writing on the wall with respect to the oncoming pandemic. The situation deepened when there was an outbreak of shootings and murders in the very neighborhoods served by their agency; people were quite literally afraid to walk the streets. The agency established a Task Force and the entire management team turned its focus toward preservation of life and the satisfaction of basic needs.  

Typically, Trinity Alliance hosted Mass Food Distribution events from April – October, twice per month. During these events, they invited the community out to come pick up the food on a first come, first served basis; seeing lines forming as early as 7am that often wrap around the block. With the rise of COVID-19 — and per the direction of the CEO, the entire staff of the agency were mobilized to manage the logistical aspects involved in feeding many more people on a much more frequent basis. Regular daily Food Pantry operations were also forced into a fully home delivery-based program for the first time in history.

The Interview

AppGeo: Can you start by telling us a little more about the background of Trinity Alliance when it comes to bringing food? What sorts of services do you provide?

TA: One of the several programs we offer is access to nutritious food through our two food pantries. Trinity’s mass food distribution events are also organized annually, twice a month, March through October. 

AppGeo: Can you tell us how you’ve adopted Bringfood and how it is helping your organization?

TA: Sara received an email about Bringfood just at the right time, and we started using it for mass food distribution events starting in June 2020. It was a lifesaver, and it still is. The app has allowed us to do more than what was possible before, and we’re able to better serve our neighbors. Sara adds that they “constantly get feedback on how the delivery resource has been very helpful”.

It [Bringfood] was a lifesaver, and it still is . The app has allowed us to do more than what was possible before, and we’re able to better serve our neighbors.” – Sara Adams, Trinity Alliance of the Capital Region

AppGeo: What has changed since the start of the pandemic, and how has this affected the size of your program? How were you managing deliveries before you started using Bringfood?

TA: The mass food distribution events typically drew large crowds, and with the pandemic the number of people needing the food grew but so also the risks of having so many people gather at the event. Delivery seemed to be the best solution to this problem. Sara’s team started testing several apps in the market using their free trial periods to test them out. Each distribution – delivering 800 households a month in 2 days (400 deliveries a day).  

Each food delivery event served an average of 400 households, requiring approximately 20 volunteer drivers, and 20 volunteer food assemblers.  Front desk receptionists supported this mobilization with signing individuals up and scheduling them for the mass food delivery. Front desk staff fielded the 8,120 household calls to sign up for Mass Food events and completed intakes for individuals to be on our delivery roster. Case Managers and Community Health Workers routinely supported with a) ensuring the community members they served were signed up for food delivery and b) delivering food to households throughout our 7 months of Mass Food events. Program management worked regularly on volunteer recruitment, communication, and management. By the end of the 2020 season, they had compiled a roster of over 150 unique community member volunteers who now serve as the base for other volunteer projects at the agency. 

With 400 deliveries a day, [manually] creating the [driver] routes was very hard.  We were growing, and had already been thinking strategically about how to incorporate deliveries into our operations. We had even piloted a very limited delivery program for seniors. Once COVID hit and NY started lockdowns, we were suddenly thrown from the frying pan into the fire and had to scramble to find solutions (Sara).  Even the national guard has been helping out for the first two months of lockdown. We now run a hybrid model of people coming in and a single driver making deliveries four times a week across the two pantries (Andre). 

In December we went to an all delivery model.  The food pantry coalition was very supportive to all the volunteers and organizations and became involved in delivering to individuals in quarantine. 

AppGeo:  AppGeo recently rolled out some enhancements to the app, such as including route mileage and time details?  Have they been helpful and how?

TA: The enhancements were helpful – the volunteers were told how long it would take or the mileage of the route – this was very helpful – volunteers really liked it. They like the sheets and the exact address and the additional data fields. Also, if volunteers have a really small car (13-15 households typical) – Bringfood allows controlling for size and number of volunteers. From a workflow standpoint it [Bringfood] has been seamless and volunteers have enjoyed it. 

Sara finds that she hardly has to manipulate the output from the app, maybe just a little formatting and the routes are ready.  When she went back into the app after a long break she was pleasantly surprised to see the route details.  They were very helpful for volunteers who needed to track their mileage or just know how long they would need to complete the route.  Volunteers have been very appreciative of the ease with which the process works. It’s a real lifesaver! 

AppGeo: The greatest reward for us at AppGeo is to receive appreciation for the support provided.  

We are grateful for the work you are doing and are humbled that our app is helping your mission.

TA: And thank you. At Trinity Alliance, we do not consider ourselves a charity – we empower people. One of our drivers who has helped volunteer is now even helping us out by teaching sign language – we’re all helping one another. We would also like to thank the New York state hunger assistance program, County Department of Health; and the Health Insurance Managed Care Plan – which provides medically tailored food.

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