Hagai: A New Way for Volunteers to Distribute Food Parcels

Noam Honig and his wife Yael with their children Ofri (6), Itamar (10), Noam and Maayan (12)

By Jamie Uranovsky

Hagai, a volunteer food delivery application that was started in Israel, has just made its way to South African shores.

The app, created by Israeli Noam Honig facilitates the delivering of food parcels and other goods from food banks to those in need.

Noam first began developing the app when his wife asked him to deliver some parcels and in the process he got lost and was unsure about the identity of the recipient. He realised that this was a problem he could solve for volunteers, and he initially wrote the software for 50 deliveries for small organisations during the holidays.

On the first Rosh Hashana, 500 deliveries were done via Hagai. This increased to 3000 on Pesach and then to 6500 the following Rosh Hashana. After this, Noam joined forces with many more organisations with a new mission: to deliver food to individuals monthly or even weekly and not just on holidays. In February this year, Hagai successfully made 2500 deliveries – the most it had made in a month with no holidays. Then the coronavirus hit the Hagai became more important than ever.

During Israel’s lockdown, the state implemented a massive food distribution operation to deliver food to people’s houses three times a week; however, the country was not ready for this and lacked the requisite infrastructure and software. That’s when Noam stepped in and offered the use of Hagai free of charge to whoever wanted to use it. He also worked with the IDF to make the service separately available for military operation deliveries. Between the civilian and army software, the app has allowed for over 350 000 deliveries since the onset of COVID-19.

The site has been used to deliver food for charity; flags for Yom Ha’atzmaut; plants to the elderly who live alone, such as Holocaust survivors; and sending package to army bases from soldiers’ families. A multitude of organisations now use Hagai.

Recently, Noam has started working on an international version of the app and South Africa has just started using it to distribute food parcels to families in the Jewish community. Soon, the service should be available all over the world in Jewish communities to make food distribution easier. In Israel, it has reduced delivery time by two thirds of the time it once took.

The app requires organisations and food banks to register with Hagai by contacting Noam directly. Once the organisation has been added to the database, volunteers who wish to deliver can contact the foodbank of their choosing and will be sent an SMS from the given foodbank, telling him or her when to collect parcels from the organisation. On arrival, volunteers are matched with families and addresses (which are all loaded onto the app complete with directions) and they can drop off the parcels immediately. This is then reflected on the site, which contains a distribution map and labels registered households as ‘unassigned’, ‘assigned’ and ‘delivered.’ Moreover, one volunteer will be matched with families in the same area so as to economise the time it will take to deliver. The app is designed to make the volunteering process as easy as possible and assumes ‘once off’ volunteering so that volunteers do not have to make a long-term commitment.

However, if one does want to be a long-term or continuous volunteer, the app is able to facilitate this. If someone volunteers for a second time, the app automatically matches them with the same people to whom they delivered the previous time. That way, the volunteer is already familiar with the directions and individuals.

This app is perfect for both large and smaller organisations and is currently free to use.

Noam named the app after his late nephew, Hagai Ainemer, who passed away in January from heart disease. He was almost 23 and spent his life dedicated to volunteering, such as volunteering in service of the army as well as for the boy scouts. Noam says, “He’s an inspiration for me to take this application further. So, anyone who needs it to distribute food, I’m trying my best to help them.”

What makes this venture even more impressive is that Noam developed it in his ‘free time.’ He is also the founder and CEO of Firefly Migration, a 15-year-old company that migrates applications written in a legacy technology called ‘Magic’ to the modern ‘.net’ platform and which operates all over the world.

Noam says that Hagai could not have reached its potential without the support of his wife, Yael. He explains, “This all started when my wife sent me to deliver parcels. During these last two months, I was working full-time on this site from 5am-3am, making sure the deliveries get done and throughout all this time, my wonderful wife was supporting everything and making things happen and taking care of the kids and the house and all the other things, freeing me to focus on this and being able to help. I owe her a big thank you for all that.”

To register your organisation with Hagai, email Noam at saleyhagai@gmail.com or noam.honig@gmail.com.

For more information, you can also visit the site about the application at:
or visit the (Hebrew) Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/foodbasketdelivery/

The usage of Hagai in South Africa was facilitated by the Jewish Agency (https://www.jewishagency.org/il/).


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