STOR-i student's expertise helps local foodbank charity

Image of Callum Barltrop

Second year STOR-i PhD student Callum Barltrop recently completed an internship with Morecambe Bay Foodbank. This placement was financed by the Centre's Gwern Owain Bursary, a fund setup with the broad aim of improving humanitarian and/or environmental issues. 


The foodbank was founded by local churches and community groups, working together towards stopping hunger in the Lancaster district area. The operation has continued growing since its inception in 2012 and throughout the pandemic, there has been a large spike in foodbank use within the area. Furthermore, it is widely expected that this trend will continue during the post-COVID recovery period. 


One of the existing challenges faced by the foodbank is the task of keeping track of unique clients in an accurate and efficient manner. While this task may sounds simple, in practice there are many difficulties that arise due to issues with the available dataset. These issues arise due to human error during data entry and the personal details of clients changing over time (e.g. a client moving to a new address). 


This was the focus of Callum’s project and through his internship, he was able to produce lower and upper bounds for the number of unique clients who use the foodbank. These bounds were proved theoretically, illustrating the benefits of applying a mathematical approach in this setting. When applied to the data, lower and upper bounds of 6098 and 7505, respectively, were obtained, which equates to approximately 4.2% to 5.1% of the population within the Lancaster district area. 


Furthemore, using his approach, Callum was able to reduce the computation time required to analyse the dataset by a factor of 15. In practice, this should save a great deal of time for volunteers at the foodbank and therefore help them to better focus on the important tasks at hand. 

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