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Kaizen Health: Reducing Food Insecurities in Pittsburgh and the Surrounding Area

Our team brings technology assets, a broad transportation network, and a commitment to reducing food insecurity for underserved citizens.

Photo of Mindi Knebel
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The Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) has decided to make a conscious effort to increase access to food in the communities throughout Allegheny County with a goal of having every person within twenty minutes of travel to fresh fruits and vegetables without the requirement of a private vehicle. Working in collaboration with DOMI, Kaizen Health has the ability to bridge the gap between transportation and food resources. With the transportation network Kaizen Health already has developed in Allegheny County, we have the potential to make the DOMI goal a reality, using smart technology to provide stable access to food for underserved populations in Allegheny County. 

How it works: Working in collaboration with the food dispensaries in Allegheny County, hospital staff would conduct an initial screening to ask members about the barriers they face with accessing food in the areas they live. Once deemed eligible for Kaizen Health’s services, care coordinators would give patients information regarding our transportation services. Patients would then utilize a HIPAA compliant app to set up rides to and from food dispensaries or grocery stores in their communities. Patients who do not have access to a smart phone would be provided a phone number to request rides through a food dispensary employee with access to Kaizen Health’s software. With guidelines for how they could redeem their transportation credits, as well as specific location options for their pick-ups or drop-offs, we’d ensure patients would arrive to the food dispensary during their open hours.

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

In 2016, Allegheny County was home to 286 food rescue locations servicing a grand total of 479,770 people, or 36.7% of the county’s population. Though a great benefit to the communities, data estimated that, of the total population serviced by the food banks system, 402,810 of the users live in a qualifying food deserts or transit deserts, with 17,739 of those members living in both. Quantifying this, 84% of food rescue users were disadvantaged in accessing community food resources because of where they lived. Our solution starts with these patients, as well as any member in the community who currently qualifies as food insecure and hasn’t yet been connected with food dispensary programs in Allegheny County, at the center of the conversation regarding transportation and food insecurities. Kaizen Health provides healthcare workers, food dispensary employees and social workers with a platform for increasing food insecurity resources and working to end food shortages in Allegheny County.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

Kaizen Health is an early-stage health technology company working to modernize and streamline access to transportation in partnership with providers, payers, self-insured employers and municipalities. We are passionate about eliminating transportation as a barrier to health-related resources, as well as pursuing creative ways to deploy our technology and vehicle network to reduce unnecessary cost in healthcare and help people live healthier, happier lives. Learn more at

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

Our idea is modeled after a similar pilot campaign in development around addressing food insecurity for marginalized residents in Chicago. First, we would want to engage key stakeholders to understand how circumstances in Pittsburgh could warrant a tailored approach. With agreed upon applicable uses, an eligibility assessment and geographical boundaries, we would identify our pilot population. A transportation needs assessment would ensure appropriate vehicles are available to support anticipated ride volumes. After a brief marketing, outreach and registration period, we expect to be able to go live and begin facilitating rides/deliveries. Once live, the pilot will focus on execution, issue remediation, scaling opportunities, and measuring success.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

We believe our pilot is capable of demonstrating operational effectiveness and show that investment in food insecurity leads to significant downstream savings in medical cost and city services. We would expect KPI/metric definition to be an important collaborative first step in the process. Typical metrics and measures of success for deployment of our platform include: • Meals picked up or delivered • Reduction in food insecurity related health issues • Increased compliance for diabetic patients • Increased utilization of food dispensaries • Reduction in ED presentations • Patient and community engagement • Self-reported patient satisfaction Studies show other benefits to enhanced access to transportation for underserved populations, including reduced overall cost of care; but these effects are difficult to tease out in the short term. Our team will work to lay the groundwork for these measurements, while keeping primary focus on more readily available indicators of success.

1 comment

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Photo of KatieWalsh 100

Hi Mindi - many thanks for also publishing your idea here in Pittsburgh - Katie - Facilitator