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The Campus Kitchen at Auburn University is a volunteer organization devoted to fighting hunger and food waste in East Alabama, using dedicated student volunteers and by recovering excess food from campus dining locations.
How best to meet the demand sometimes becomes a moving target as students come and go, available food supplies vary, and unexpected factors like a pandemic take hold.
They are the same type of challenges with supply chain management that continue to task business leaders in most all industry fields, including commercial and non-profit. That’s why consultation and viewpoints from an outside source sometimes are welcomed, and why a Harbert College of Business supply chain consulting class at Auburn University is happy to give them.
“The solution we presented could impact Auburn and the surrounding community for years to come.”
Two teams in adjunct professor Erik Sjolseth’s spring 2022 class recently gave presentations of their findings in consultation with two entities curious to hear what the students might suggest.
One of them was Campus Kitchen, and the idea of Auburn students helping Auburn students was another appealing aspect of the partnership, said Glenn Loughridge, director of campus dining and a longtime advocate of reducing waste and feeding the hungry.
“My job is to make sure everybody gets fed every day. Everyone has to be able to access food every day,” he said during a recent symposium, and with Campus Kitchen, the mission isn’t just about off-campus community service. “We definitely see a growing need among students with food insecurity.”
Loughridge attended Sjolseth’s final class of the spring semester and listened closely to the Campus Kitchen consultation team suggest ways to help, praising the students for their interest and their ideas.
Team leader and spring graduate Mary Grace Boatright was grateful for the opportunity, and perhaps more so the feeling of making a difference.
“This consulting class allowed me to get real experience managing a project for a client where the solution we presented could impact Auburn and the surrounding community for years to come,” she said.
“I think the most helpful thing we did for Campus Kitchen was create a more robust inventory tracking system that will allow their executive team members to know what inventory they currently have available down to the pound and track unnecessary waste to rid their processes of inefficiencies,” she said. “This will allow it to present to donors how much of the food donated is making it to people in need and hopefully encourage more donations in the future.”
Another team in the class presented shipping and logistics company DHL with ideas to improve workflow involving palletization, such as moving stored products from stacks to pallets.
Their studies included research into the use of automated guided vehicles, or AGVs. That type of new technology is something DHL continues to explore and implement, company representative Harshal Ugale said as he praised the team’s ideas on transportation, staging areas, hours assigned to workers, AGV use, movement of materials to pick-up bays, and ideas aimed at promoting additional safety with forklifts and less travel.
“Excellent work,” he told the team.
That kind of feedback and interaction with professionals in the field proves extremely valuable for Harbert students, Sjolseth said.
“The purpose of the class is to learn how to ask good questions. Another is about networking,” he said. “I’m extremely proud of them.”