Give Food is an independent UK charity, founded in early 2020. They run the only national public database of UK foodbanks, and provide an up-to-date index of what goods each one is asking to be donated.
Founder Jason Cartwright spoke to us about how Give Food makes use of TheyWorkForYou’s email alerts — and we were pleased to discover that mySociety has helped shape their offerings in other ways, too.
Find a foodbank near you
The Give Food website performs a number of related functions, as Jason explains: “We help members of the public understand that there are foodbanks around them, then give them tools to donate the items that are needed or to take political action.”
Put in your postcode and you’ll be shown a list and a map of all the foodbanks near you. If you click on one of them, you’ll see what they need, what they already have plenty of, and where you can drop donations — or in some cases, how you can purchase goods online and have them delivered directly to the foodbank.
“We aim to help local organisations address the immediate and critical needs created by food insecurity, but the wider ultimate aim is to not exist at all, as we believe that foodbanks should not be required in our country.”
Turning alert emails into action
As this suggests, Give Food is not just a middleman between citizens and foodbanks, but also acts as a political campaigning organisation. So where do the TheyWorkForYou alerts come in?
“We use them heavily,” says Jason, “basically to inform ourselves of what is being discussed by lawmakers around our cause.
“We’re only small, but larger charities in our field are experts at engaging the public and politicians to achieve the same aims as us, and regularly directly influence policy.
“TheyWorkForYou alerts allow us to see, almost in real time, which of the approaches they are using are cutting through to being discussed in Parliament and national/city assemblies.
“We use the information about how conversation around our cause is going to influence how we approach our advertising, site usability and copy — all of which allows our users to maximise their political action.
“For instance, as a simple example, the current cost of living crisis, especially energy bills, is having a profound effect on foodbanks. Seeing this being discussed by politicians we were able to quickly change our advertising keywords and also reflect the current conversation in the form email our users can send to their MP.”
Open source code
It’s great to hear of such a direct connection between our output and a charity’s ability to act. And, as it turned out, the alerts aren’t the only benefit that Give Food have gained from mySociety.
One more useful function of the Give Food website is that you can sign up to receive an email when your local foodbank needs supplies. This isn’t powered by our code, but Jason tells us that it was modelled on TheyWorkForYou’s alerts system.
Finally, there’s one more important way in which we’ve influenced Give Food: “Our code and data is all open source, and that decision was 100% influenced by mySociety’s open ethos.
“Our data is used by governments, councils, universities, supermarkets, political parties, hundreds of national & local news websites, apps, plus other charities including food banks and food bank networks themselves,” says Jason, proving that when data is set free, it can be used in a multitude of different and useful tools.
If you’re a developer and you think Give Food’s data or code might be useful to you, start on their API page.
Thanks very much to Jason for talking to us: it’s a joy to discover the many and varied ways in which TheyWorkForYou alerts are helping others to make a difference.
Image: FeydHuxtable (CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)