Elicitation of Preference among Multiple Criteria in Food Distribution by Food Banks
Hasnain, T., Sengul Orgut, I., & Ivy, J. S. (2021, October 22). PRODUCTION AND OPERATIONS MANAGEMENT.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide a road map for countries to achieve peace and prosperity. In this study, we address two of these sustainable development goals: achieving food security and reducing inequalities. Food banks are nonprofit organizations that collect and distribute food donations to food‐insecure populations in their service regions. Food banks consider three criteria while distributing the donated food: equity, effectiveness, and efficiency. The equity criterion aims to distribute food in proportion to the food‐insecure households in a food bank's service area. The effectiveness criterion aims to minimize undistributed food, whereas the efficiency criterion minimizes the total cost of transportation. Models that assume predetermined weights on these criteria may produce inaccurate results as the preference of food banks over these criteria may vary over time, and as a function of supply and demand. In collaboration with our food bank partner in North Carolina, we develop a single‐period, weighted multi‐criteria optimization model that provides the decision‐maker the flexibility to capture their preferences over the three criteria of equity, effectiveness, and efficiency, and explore the resulting trade‐offs. We then introduce a novel algorithm that elicits the inherent preference of a food bank by analyzing its actions within a single‐period. The algorithm does not require direct interaction with the decision‐maker. The non‐interactive nature of this algorithm is especially significant for humanitarian organizations such as food banks which lack the resources to interact with modelers on a regular basis. We perform extensive numerical experiments to validate the efficiency of our algorithm. We illustrate results using historical data from our food bank partner and discuss managerial insights. We explore the implications of different decision‐maker preferences for the criteria on distribution policies.