NBNEGA DigitizationApril 27, 2022
The Food Bank of Northeast Georgia (FBNEGA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to relieving hunger in 14 counties by partnering with around 200 organizations and agencies to distribute food to those in need. People around Georgia are served on a daily basis thanks to their organizational efforts and efficiency. There is a wide array of data collected throughout the organization including food recipients, donors, volunteers, and inventory. This data is vital for decision making and finding insights regarding the distribution of food. The real challenge and opportunity is to capture and utilize that data. TEFAP forms are a prime example of this opportunity. Food Banks are required by the USDA to collect these forms provided by the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Within FBNEGA, these forms contain valuable data on food recipients including counties, households, income, and more. In order to better serve individuals in need, the FBNEGA Digitization Team is working to capitalize on these forms by extracting and analyzing the data.
Data extraction and analysis is a complicated process involving a lot of trial and error. These ideas will be implemented long-term within the Food Bank and should therefore be easy to use and effective. Google Cloud Services assist in the process of capturing data within these forms. The first step involves Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to read and extract the information from paper forms. Using Google Document AI, the handwritten information is translated into a JSON file. From there, Google Functions and Google BigQuery work together to not only store the data, but also to create data visualizations regarding food recipient countries, household sizes, or other desired information.
Ultimately, this process works to understand more about people in need and how the Food Bank can better reach and serve them. Additional research regarding digitization of food.