PittGrub: A Frustration-Free System to Reduce Food Waste by Notifying Hungry College Students
Mark Silvis (University of Pittsburgh, School of Computer Science); Anthony Sicilia (University of Pittsburgh, School of Computer Science); Alexandros Labrinidis (University of Pittsburgh, School of Computer Science)
The amount of food waste generated by the U.S. is staggering, both expensive in economic cost and environmental side effects. Surplus food, which could be used to feed people facing food insecurity, is instead discarded and placed in landfills. Institutions, universities, and non-profits have noticed this issue and are beginning to take action to reduce surplus food waste, typically by redirecting it to food banks and other organizations or having students transport or eat the food. These approaches present challenges such as transportation, volunteer availability, and lack of prioritization of those in need. In this paper, we introduce PittGrub, a notification system to intelligently select users to invite to events that have leftover food. PittGrub was invented to help reduce food waste at the University of Pittsburgh. We use reinforcement learning to determine how many notifications to send out and a valuation model to determine whom to prioritize in the notifications. Our goal is to produce a system that prioritizes feeding students in need while simultaneously eliminating food waste and maintaining a fair distribution of notifications. As far as we are aware, PittGrub is unique in its approach to eliminating surplus food waste while striving for social good. We compare our proposed techniques to multiple baselines on simulated datasets to demonstrate effectiveness. Experimental results among various algorithms show promise in eliminating food waste while helping those facing food insecurity and treating users fairly. Our prototype is currently in beta and coming soon to the Apple App Store.