As the largest private hunger relief organization in eastern Oklahoma, the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma relies on 450 partner programs to distribute food through emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, after-school programs and senior citizen centers.
Gathering feedback from each of those partner organizations has historically been a manual process that involved gathering and transferring information to multiple Excel spreadsheets. The Community Food Bank partnered with TU computer information systems students to develop a solution that would streamline their survey process.
The project is part of a senior-level CIS course that offers students a chance to apply skills learned in class to a problem or challenge faced by a local nonprofit. Students work in teams that include a project leader, one or two developers and business analysts who serve as communications liaisons between the team and the client.
CIS seniors Viviana Abrego and Corey Bolger served on the Community Food Bank project team. Abrego explains, “The Community Food Bank would survey each agency and program to develop progress reports that include information such as how many meals were provided. They used two different systems to help gather that information, which was then exported to Excel spreadsheets that someone had to merge together. Only one person in the organization had access to the information, so the process was inefficient.”
The team was tasked with finding or creating a single system that could distribute surveys and that would also allow for more than one person to log in and view the results. With the assistance of advisor Ryan Haight, they chose Salesforce.com as the primary platform and integrated it with Formsite, an online survey building service.
“Working on a project where the students were completely in control was eye opening and a great experience,” Bolger said. “Having access to a Salesforce developer gave us experience we wouldn’t have had otherwise and allowed us to better serve our clients at the food bank. That was really helpful. Being able to work with a client in the real world and experiencing some of the challenges that come along with that gave me the confidence I need as I transition to my job.”
Abrego shared that the group worried about whether the solution would provide value to the Community Food Bank, particularly in light of technical roadblocks throughout the process. “But when we met with the food bank team near the end of the semester, they opened our eyes to the value our solution brought. They were over the moon and kept singing our praises. Because the food bank helps a big part of the community, you feel like you’re doing something great for your city. You’re helping people who don’t have the resources to get food, and this system is helping the Community Food Bank provide a better service. That’s the greatest value we got out of participating in this project.”
For more information about the computer information systems program, visit utulsa.edu/cis.