This year GQ Life Sciences supported Boston’s annual holiday food drive, BostonCANShare. It’s a great program that collects food at the Greater Boston Food Bank and then distributes it to over 90 food pantries, emergency meal programs, and shelters.
Our competitive team of engineers are always up for a challenge, so we decided it would make for a more exciting food drive if we divided up into teams. Each team was challenged with maximizing the amount and diversity of food they could obtain with $150.
So we randomly split up into four teams, and GQ gave each of them $150 and an afternoon to go buy food. The rules were simple: no other money could be used (but some of the $150 could be used for transportation). There were no restrictions on receiving free food if the team could be that persuasive. Of course, everyone had to stick to the allowable foods as described by the BostonCANShare food drive.
All we needed was a computable way to determine which team maximized the amount and diversity of food they could pull in with the $150… a how would this competition be scored?
Glad you asked. We’re engineers, so as you might have guessed, we made it complicated. We wanted teams to maximize the number of calories they bought, maximize the variety of foods, and make sure that they got roughly equal amounts of food f or each of the five food groups (dairy, protein, fruit, veg, grain).
We even came up with an advanced formula and a complicated Excel sheet to track teams’ progress, but we won’t bore you with that here. I do want to mention though, that different teams attempted to compute maximal solutions to the problem in different ways (journal article in American Math Society pending).
Our four teams set out around Boston for an afternoon of food-sourcing fun. We shopped in supermarkets, found great sales, snuck into Chinatown for amazing deals, and hauled back loads of food. The whole office spent the early evening computing team scores over hot toddies and snacks (food shopping has a way of building an appetite).
There were winners and there were losers, but in the end, we all won: GQ Life Sciences donated 484,117 calories of healthy foods with a great distribution across all major food groups and lots of different products to choose from. That’s enough food to feed a family of four straight through the winter, and we did it for just $600.
It can be hard to find the time in our busy lives to volunteer, to give back, to help those in need. Everyone at GQ Life Sciences was proud to play a part in this food drive and we’re all looking forward to doing it again next year.