About the Client
The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) is a community-based non-profit organization that provides supplemental groceries to Arlington County, Virginia residents in need. Now over 20 years after its founding, AFAC remains dedicated to its simple but critical mission of obtaining and distributing groceries, directly and free of charge, to people who cannot afford to purchase enough food to meet their basic needs.
AFAC clients are families that have received referrals from Arlington government agencies, churches, schools, and/or social service agencies. Food is distributed to clients at one of 11 locations, 6 days a week. Because clients must have a referral to receive food, an AFAC representative must verify that each client requesting food has an active referral.
AFAC currently distributes groceries each week to over 1,600 families. As the need for their services has grown, so has the administrative work required to serve their large and often-changing client base. AFAC is frequently staffed by volunteer workers, and the paper-based process used to support clients was no longer practical or efficient. As AFAC’s primary reason for existence is to help local families, it is important that AFAC staffers have the ability to spend their time where it is most important – with the clients.
Along with their growing client base, regulatory and funding requirements made it imperative for AFAC to improve its data collection and reporting ability in order to ensure ongoing funding. This was no longer possible using a paper-based system. A limited data collection process required hours of volunteer data entry to produce the reports required for documentation of AFAC’s operations.
Because AFAC serves the public from a number of locations, they also faced the difficulty of tracking food distributions among all their facilities. Again, paper processes proved too slow and unwieldy for timely and/or accurate data sharing between locations.
After carefully observing AFAC’s referral processing and distribution activities, Segue went to work, developing two distinct approaches, with a single solution. An HTML5 application was created for both agency referral staff and AFAC administrative staff. This allowed referrers and administrators to re-use existing client records for on-going food distributions, thus reducing confusion and streamlining the process for referrals. Using the new application, Social agency workers no longer need to complete paper forms and fax them to AFAC – everything is completed online in a fraction of the time. Rather than waiting for emails or phone calls indicating referral approvals, agency workers are notified online of their referrals’ approval status. Existing referrals can be extended where appropriate without the need to initiate a new client or a new process.
Second, the application was customized to allow use of a mobile device camera, providing virtually all functionality of the web-based application (except for reporting), and adding the ability to scan barcoded ID cards, which are now issued by AFAC to all clients. Using an Android camera-enabled mobile device, AFAC staff and volunteers can instantly locate and check-in clients rapidly, reducing the client waiting times sometimes associated with food distribution. Data from all food distribution centers is centralized, so client information and referral status is readily available to AFAC staff regardless of location. Robust reporting is now possible through a collection of pre-developed reports. AFAC staff can also export all client data into a format suitable for creating their own reports as needed.