Donation management for menu planning at soup kitchens

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The food industry is confronted with a pressure to reduce waste and to make agreements on donating surplus food to charitable organizations. Charitable organizations such as food banks and soup kitchens can use these donations in preparing food parcels or meals for their clients. For soup kitchens, donation management is strongly influencing menu planning, and conversely, menu planning considerations have a strong impact on donation management decisions. To make the best use of (mostly highly perishable) food donations, we develop an MILP model for integrated donation management and menu planning that proposes a menu plan and suggests which (part of the) donations to accept. The combination of menu planning and donation management is essential for soup kitchens, but has not been studied before. The model is used to assess the impact of contracts on a strategic or tactical level, and captures operational decision making due to the integration of donation management and menu planning. To deal with meal variety considerations and to resemble planning practices, the developed model is solved in a rolling horizon. The results show that (i) the use of donations reduces overall costs for the soup kitchen; (ii) despite the short shelf life of donations, most donations can be used efficiently; and (iii) meal variety can be easily ensured and food donations increase this variety. In addition to the benefits for soup kitchens, the approach has implications for waste reduction in food supply chains, by structural/contractual donations of surplus food by retailers.




Buisman, M. E., Haijema, R., Akkerman, R., & Bloemhof, J. M. (2019). Donation management for menu planning at soup kitchens. European Journal of Operational Research, 272(1), 324–338.

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