AN APP developed by a Christian entrepreneur is taking aim at the familiar problem of foodbanks’ having years’ worth of tinned to - matoes, but no fresh fruit.
The app, Bankuet, works by having foodbanks specify the food items that they actually need. Those
who want to donate to the hungry, but may not have the time or knowledge, can then log into the app and virtually buy the items listed by the foodbank in their area.
Bankuet then takes the money given, buys parcels of food, and arranges for it to be delivered directly to the foodbank at a convenient time.
The man behind the start-up, Robin Ferris, said that the “lightbulb moment” came last year, after he had set up his own foodcollection point at his local supermarket for Wandsworth foodbank.
“A couple of months after doing the collections, I had that revelation that ‘This is 2018, and think of all the technology that you use to get whatever you want, whenever you want, from your phone,’” he said on Tuesday.
“But the process of collecting food from the Co-op, taking them back to my flat, putting them in boxes, and taking them to the foodbanks. . . I thought: ‘There must be an easier way of doing this: why isn’t there an online foodbank?’ There wasn’t; so hence there is now, which is Bankuet.”
Mr Ferris, who had spent more than a decade working in both the music and film industries as they were affected by digital distribution technology such as Spotify and Netflix, left his job to pursue what he believed was God’s calling. “This was a huge step of faith. It was saying, ‘I have got this idea I believe is God-inspired? Am I willing to step out into that?’”
After taking part in a start-up accelerator programme for social enterprises, led by the charity Resurgo, and several frantic months of networking and coding, Mr Ferris launched Bankuet as a pilot this summer. It is now funnelling supplies to six foodbanks, and many more are due to be added in the coming months.
“Lots of foodbanks at the minute have an oversupply of pasta and baked beans,” he said. “As we’re coming up to Christmas, people are now donating mince pies, which actually creates a huge problem for foodbanks. So Bankuet is intentionally zero waste; the only things you see on Bankuet are specifically what the foodbank has asked for.”
Bankuet has also been supported by Kingdom Code, a collective of Christians working in technology
(News, 9 October 2015), who have assisted Mr Ferris in the making of the app. Last month, the app won an award at the Kingdom Code hackathon in London.
This week, the Trussell Trust, who have had preliminary discussions with Mr Ferris, announced their
latest statistics, which showed the sharpest rise in foodbank usage for five years. Data for April to September suggests that 823,145 three-day emergency food parcels were given out: “the busiest half-year period for foodbanks in the Trussell Trust’s network since the charity opened”, and a 23-per-cent increase on the same period in 2018 — the sharpest rate of increase the charity has seen for the past five years.
“We all wish foodbanks didn’t exist, but they do, and, from what I can see, the problem is getting
worse. More and more people are using foodbanks, but fewer people are giving,” Mr Ferris said. Bankuet could help, not only by making it easier for people to don ate, but also by releasing foodbanks from the pressure of managing and collecting their own food. . .
“We’re saying to the foodbanks: ‘We can save you time so you can spend more time with your clients to understand the real problems they are facing.’”