Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1287/inte.2021.1097

Each year, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) provides food assistance to around 100 million people in more than 80 countries. Significant investments over the last decade have put planning and optimization at the forefront of tackling emergencies at WFP. A data-driven approach to managing operations has gradually become the norm and has culminated in the creation of a supply chain planning unit and savings of more than USD 150 million—enough to support two million food-insecure people for an entire year. In this paper, we describe three analytical solutions in detail: the Supply Chain Management Dashboard, which uses descriptive and predictive analytics to bring end-to-end visibility and anticipate operational issues; Optimus, which uses a mixed-integer programming model to simultaneously optimize food basket composition and supply chain planning; and DOTS, which is a data integration platform that helps WFP automate and synchronize complex data flows. Three impact studies for Iraq, South Sudan, and COVID-19 show how these tools have changed the way WFP manages its most complex operations. Through analytics, decision makers are now equipped with the insights they need to manage their operations in the best way, thereby saving and changing the lives of millions and bringing the world one step closer to zero hunger.

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