Editors at Microsoft News Center recently spoke with Matthew Reich, Vice President of Operations at City Harvest, to learn more about how Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is helping the anti-hunger nonprofit keep up with the growing demand for food donations in New York City.

Did you ever have extra food wishing instead that it could have been distributed to someone who needs it? Every year, Americans end up tossing 40 percent of the food supply in the U.S., according to a report by the National Resources Defense Council. That’s enough to feed 25 million people.

City Harvest began more than 30 years ago to address this very issue. The world’s first food rescue organization, the nonprofit collects tens of millions of pounds of food each year from restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers, and farms. This food is then delivered free of charge to nearly 600 community food programs throughout New York City using a fleet of trucks and bikes.

As the years have passed, both the quantity of food donations and the number of hungry New Yorkers have grown. As the need has increased, City Harvest wanted a technology solution that could help increase efficiency as it captured more surplus food and delivered it to food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the city.

MNC: Can you describe the challenges you faced before you implemented Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online?

Reich: We work with about 5,000 food donors and 600 emergency food programs that feed hungry New Yorkers. We were looking to be able to store more information about our food donors and recipient emergency food programs. 

MNC: What prompted you to implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online?

Reich: As part of our five-year strategic plan, we decided to double the amount of food we rescued and delivered from 30 million pounds to 60 million pounds by 2016, which we realized was an ambitious goal. To accomplish it, we needed to invest in better technology that would give managers the information and resources they needed to deliver twice as much food.  In September 2011, we participated in a two-week trial offer of Microsoft CRM Online and were hooked. We were impressed because of its sophisticated capabilities and also because it was in the cloud, which meant we wouldn’t have to invest in hardware. Knowing it would be a really powerful tool for us, we began full implementation immediately.

MNC: How does your organization use Microsoft business solutions, such as CRM and ERP products?

Reich: We use Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Dynamics GP to generate food pick-up requests via the Microsoft Dynamics Connector. For example, when a restaurant calls and says we have 65 pounds of extra salad, a food sourcing manager opens up the donor’s contact information and enters a note that we need to make a pick-up tomorrow. An automatic email notification, detailing a pick-up request, is then sent to the transportation department through the Dynamics GP inventory system. Our transportation management team uses Dynamics CRM to manage the routing of our 37 drivers and 18 trucks as they pick-up and deliver food. In addition, our managers use Dynamics CRM to automatically generate letters to the donors acknowledging the pounds of food they donated, which they need for tax purposes.

We’ve also used Dynamics GP to develop an allocation system, which helps us distribute the food where it’s needed most. When you have 800,000 pounds of food, it’s hard to figure out who gets 10 cases of mangoes and who gets 20 cases of eggplant. So now, food is strategically allocated to the places that need it most based on an algorithm.

MNC: How is Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online increasing the efficiency of your operations?

Reich: Microsoft Dynamics CRM gives us the information we need to work efficiently. We’re now able to see all the information about each food donor and each emergency food program in one place, including emails tracked by different departments. And because Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is a cloud-based application, our managers can access it wherever they are, using nearly any device. This is helping us work with donors and emergency food programs in a more professional and effective way. Dynamics CRM is also saving us time. We’ve almost doubled the amount of food we delivered since 2010, with the same number of people doing the job, so we’ve become a lot more efficient.

MNC: Will Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online help you to serve an even larger number of hungry New Yorkers in the future?

Reich: Yes. We’re already a year ahead of our plan to double the amount of food we deliver by 2016, and we plan to deliver an even larger quantity of food beyond 2016. The good news is that Microsoft Dynamics CRM will allow us to grow exponentially. Its helping us feed more hungry New Yorkers.

To learn more, please read the full case study and watch the City Harvest case study video. Also, visit the Microsoft Dynamics website and take advantage of the free trial offer of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.