University of Bath School of Management University of Bath School of Management

Meet the students making volunteering easier for everyone

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Everest Ekong and Miranda Khamis posing with a Food Drop transportation bag.

Miranda Khamis and Everest Ekong have set up Food Drop to make volunteering easier for everyone.

It's estimated that we waste over ten million tonnes of food and drink in the UK every year external website, yet more than eight million people are suffering from food insecurity at home external website. Those figures don't add up and Bath students Miranda Khamis and Everest Ekong have set up Food Drop external website to help redress the balance.

Food Drop allows people in Bath to pick up excess food from retailers and take it to local charities to help those in need. The company started as a project outside of the pair's university work last year and within four months 80 volunteers had signed up.

Friends Miranda (MSc in Management) and Everest (Mechanical Engineering with Manufacturing and Management external website) are now preparing to expand Food Drop with a new app.

The app will make it easier for volunteers to find retailers willing to donate and get food to those in need. Users will also be able to see how their actions are making an impact through a system of scores.

We caught up with Miranda and Everest to find out more.

Can you talk us through what Food Drop is and why you came up with it?

MK: We're really a logistics service that helps connect food retailers with local charities in need of surplus food. We do this through collecting food and then dropping it to local charities.

There was a problem at both ends of this. Retailers wanted to distribute their leftover food, but charities also found it hard to pick it up, mainly because they're already short staffed and overworked. At the same time we noticed people, students in particular, wanted to volunteer in their local community, but found it really difficult.

We saw that we could solve a problem by creating a platform where people could sign up easily using Facebook and find short, quick volunteering opportunities in their local area and do it on the go. All they have to do is turn up at a food retailer, pick up the food and drop it off at a local charity.

EE: What makes us different is that we make it easier.

The issue with lots of volunteering is not that people don't want to volunteer, it's that volunteering is made too difficult. Sometimes you have to commit a lot of hours at set times and, as a student for example, you might have deadlines to meet.

What we see Food Drop being is something you don't have to make time for – it's something you integrate into your life. So if you're commuting, walking your dog or even jogging you can do a food drop on the way.

What inspired you both to create this?

MK: It was a mixture of things. I was often sitting in cafés revising and saw at the end of the day the amount of food that was being wasted. It was just being put into plastic bags and thrown away. Then you walk down the street and see how many people are in need of it.

With our backgrounds and interests we wanted to understand the issues, what was in place and why this food wasn't getting to those in need. Food Drop felt like a logical solution.

EE: Before coming to university we both volunteered. But after a while of being here I realised I had slowed down a bit with it, and I couldn't quite work out the reason why.

I realised that it was the commitment that was stopping me from doing it. As much as I really wanted to do some volunteering every weekend, I couldn't always guarantee that I would be able to.

Then we thought, if these are all issues stopping us, it might be the same case for other people.

Charities need food and food suppliers have spare food, so it's logical to connect the dots in a way that anyone can do it.

MK: It's about making it beneficial for all. We tried to develop this platform to make it easy for people to do small acts of kindness.

Mostly people want to help out in their community, but some of it is for your CV, so you can get recognition for the work that you are doing. Because of this we wanted to create an app that people can use that gives instant recognition.

EE: One thing that retains volunteers is seeing the direct impact they are making. So doing a 10 or 20 minute drop when you get to the charity and seeing the people you are helping you can quickly see that you are feeding 20 people in 20 minutes. Where else can you have that impact?

How did you get together on this project?

MK: We were friends beforehand.

EE: I can remember us going for coffee and we ended up discussing things we'd done in the past and realised we really had similar interests with things like volunteering. We thought about how we hadn't done as much as we would have like and started thinking about what more we can do to make more of an impact.

We realised that you can have an impact by doing volunteering, but you can have a greater impact if you create a platform to allow others to do so too. Yes I can do something every single weekend, but I'd rather do something that can help 1000s of people to volunteer instead.

How has the University helped?

MK: The University has been really supportive from the start. When we first started it was just a project we were doing in our spare time and the Volunteering Centre were really helpful at that stage with helping to get us set up and supporting us.

As we noticed the potential and were putting in more time we were thinking 'how can we formalise this?' and they then encouraged us to speak to the Innovation Centre external website. We transitioned to them and did their Student Enterprise Bootcamp. We did the Business Incubation and the Dragons' Den competition with them, too.

The School of Management really helped too, in particular Dr Baris Yalabik and Dr Marco Formentini.

It was quite funny really. When we first set up our Food Drop Twitter account external website they found us before we had even mentioned it! They said 'why don't you come over and meet us to explain to us what you're doing?' and from the first meeting they said we had to make this into a company and that it could go really far.

We thought 'no, no, no, this is a bit of a project and something we want to do in our spare time', but four months later we did a seminar called Food for Thought and after that we were thinking 'right, let's do it. Let's take this seriously'.

Since then were had a great relationship with them. Having people right from the start seeing potential in what you're doing has been really inspiring for us.

How have your courses helped you with Food Drop?

MK: It's been a big help. There's lots that I've been able to apply. I've found that things are easier to understand when you can directly relate them.

My Director of Studies, Dr Maria Battarra, has been really helpful. I've been able to show her the app, tell her what I'm doing and she's been able to make suggestions and guide me towards modules I should take on the course that are really beneficial. Other lecturers are also giving me recommended reading on supply chain management too, which is really supportive.

EE: What's great is that we have different backgrounds in terms of studies. What Miranda is good at and what I'm good at complements well.

What are the next steps for food drop and where do you see it going in the future?

EE: To be very honest I don't see any boundaries for Food Drop. The issue of wasted food is one that is everywhere across the world. For now, we're thinking there's food waste, there's a need for food and there are about 14.2m volunteers as we speak in the UK external website.

If it works in Bath we don't see any reason why we should stop here. This is an opportunity to go across the nation.

How can people get involved and how easy is it?

EE: It's very easy. That's one of the reasons we built Food Drop the way we did.

You can just download from the app store, login with Facebook and start doing drops. There's no unneeded fuss, so you're able to volunteer because you want to.

People volunteer because they have a good heart and we don't see why there's a need to put people through a long process to find out if they're the right person when they already are.

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General Notes For Editors:

The School of Management is one of the UK's leading business schools. Currently ranked 1st for Student Experience (Times Higher Education 2015) and 1st for Business Studies (The Times & Sunday Times University Guide 2016), we are a leading centre for management research - placed 8th in the UK in the latest REF2014.

We are one of a select number of international business schools accredited by EQUIS, the European Foundation for Management Development's quality inspectorate and the Bath MBA has been accredited by the Association of MBAs (AMBA) since 1976.

The centrality of research to teaching is an essential feature of all our programmes. The School offers a full range of programmes from undergraduate to postgraduate up to PhD level and post-experience programmes including the world-ranked Bath MBA. The School also provides tailored executive development programmes for middle and senior management.

The School of Management has a faculty of over 100 teaching and research staff, including visiting academics, with a professional support team of around 90 managerial and administrative staff. Research income averages £2 million per annum. There are approximately 2,400 students in total comprising some 150 MBA students, over 500 Master’s students, 250 full- and part-time research students, and over 1500 undergraduates following BSc degrees.