U.S./world – Food online – Focus on inventory

By Todd Cohen

America’s Second Harvest, a Chicago-based network of 214 food banks and food recovery programs, is moving into the digital age.

The nonprofit is adopting new software for members to use in handling inventory and financial functions. It also is moving its own communications and record-keeping to a version of that software.

“In the national office, we’re still using phone and fax,” says David Prendergast, vice president for technology.

The system, which Second Harvest is buying from Navision U.S. in Duluth, Ga., and has dubbed “Ceres” for the Roman goddess of agriculture, replaces the Adage system that roughly a dozen local food banks used under licensing agreements with Second Harvest and SCT Corp. in Malvern, Pa., which makes Adage.

Second Harvest has purchased 100 licenses for the new system, which integrates inventory and financial functions to track and report on food donations and deliveries to agencies.

The system, piloted at the Second Harvest Roadrunner Food Bank in Albequerque, N.M., will be free to local food banks that sign up with regional Navision resellers.

Prendergast expects up to three-fourths of Second Harvest’s member food banks will use the system by the end of 2003, including 55 that already have signed up and another 45 that have indicated they want it.

Features to being added this fall will let agencies shop online at local food banks, and will let food banks manage inventory by using bar codes.

America’s Second Harvest will use a customized version of Navision’s software for its own internal operations, helping it communicate with donors and integrate its software with ResourceLink, the Hewlett-Packard system that matches charities with donors in the fields of food, building supplies and clothing.

Roughly a dozen food firms, including Kraft Foods in Northfield, Ill., and Minneapolis-based Pillsbury, use ResourceLink to donate food to Second Harvest food banks.

Second Harvest has raised $13 million for its software initiative, including a startup grant of $5 million from ConAgra Foods in Omaha, Neb., $7 million from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in Las Vegas and $1 million from the Starr Foundation in New York City, plus a $400,000 technology opportunity program grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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