Story by Juliet Sithole
Food waste. This is a problem that faces the food industry the world over with more food produced or served than is actually consumed by customers. The Africa University Innovation Hub (I5 Hub) in collaboration with the ICT department has developed a solution to this problem through the creation of a digital platform that allows students to place daily meal orders for breakfast, lunch or dinner, choosing from the set menu for the day. These orders are then stored within a database that the Bonaventure Ndorimana Dining Hall uses to guide how much food is cooked per service, assess what meals are best sellers and in the long term, informs the purchasing of the dining hall making use of consumer buying and consumption trends accrued over time.
What makes this innovation even more impressive is that it has been built mainly by students and graduate trainees at Africa University who conducted lengthy research of the problem, identified the bottle necks in food service delivery on the campus and developed a home-grown solution that produces data upon which decisions can be made that bring efficiencies in purchasing, waste reduction and service delivery across the board.
Ms. Yolanda Washaya, the lead in the development of the system said the creation of the platform also took into consideration the contribution of the innovation to Education 5.0 as well as regional and global development blueprints especially as they relate to food security and food distribution equity.
Mrs. Sarah Dube, Bonaventure Ndorimana Dining Hall Manager, said that the platform is a timely intervention that allows the unit to gain crucial insights into student meal needs and requirements with the added benefit of better accountability of resources used and precision in procurement processes that result in long term savings and sustainability for the unit. She added, “Instances of food waste have reduced significantly. Now, we know how much to cook, how much we serve and to how many students daily because they can now pre- order their food before service times and we are able to reduce queues to a minimum if any allowing them to get back to lectures and their studies.”
The ICT has also empowered the unit to take ownership of the platform through training of key personnel to use the system, run basic queries and utilize it to improve their work and service offerings. The student body has expressed their appreciation at the introduction of the new food ordering and service platform reporting faster service, convenience and ease of use. As Africa University continues to innovate, to research and to contribute to Education 5.0, students, their participation in problem solving and equipping them with the tools they need to develop their campus allows the translation of theory into practice in curriculum development creating solution oriented and dynamic youth ready to transform our continent.