DFG Noodles Owner Launches Platform to Connect Medical Professionals to Urgent Supplies
Anonymous superhighway works with techies and nurse practitioners
By Jessi Cape,
9:00AM, Thu. Apr. 30, 2020
Dinner isn't the only thing that medical professionals need to fuel their frontline efforts, and one Austin food truck entrepreneur created a new anonymous resource aimed at streamlining supply requests for essential workers like medical professionals.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Cheryl Cunningham, the Austin-based owner of DFG Noodles, has launched Voiceout Global. The platform acts “as a communication superhighway that helps connect key groups of people ... to better enable medical professionals and personnel to anonymously request urgent supplies,” explained Cunningham. The site features chat rooms for five different groups (medical staff, suppliers/vendors, general public, media, nonprofits/governments) and within each thread people can directly communicate needs. The website states: “The goal is to address everyone's issues quickly and openly so problems can be resolved as fast as humanly possible.”
Founded by Cunningham in 2013, DFG Noodles (Damn F'ing Good Noodles) is a food truck serving Southeast Asian dishes from Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore, where she grew up. After winning Singapore's Star Search competition, Cunningham became a personal chef and then went on to crowdfund her first food truck restaurant, DFG Noodles, here in Austin; currently DFG operates two trucks and a large catering menu for businesses across the city. They specialize in Singapore's signature street food, and in addition to tasty fare, DFG offers a “Feed a Family of Four” hot meal care package working with Partnerships for Children, which serves local families in protective services. The care package donation includes potstickers, two different mains (one meat, one vegetarian), and sides for four which are delivered to families in need the next day.
Cunningham, who is also a co-founder of upcoming the Huro Project (HURO stands for Human and Robotics), said she recognized that “medical workers were getting penalized for speaking out about lack of supplies, so anonymity was a key feature included in the new platform's development.” She partnered with two local techies, Sajjad Ahmed and Adnan Ashraf, to create Voiceout Global “after recognizing the crucial need for transparency and direct lines of communication at this time. The platform houses different features via a user-friendly site including supply, demand, fulfillment charts, and livestream chats.” Prior to the launch, there was not a streamlined way (that Cunningham knew of) for nurses or doctors to request donations, for global supply transactions, or for nonprofit organizations to receive or make donations, she explained.
Voiceout Global’s tech partners are also local: Candice Escobedo is founder of NursesforNurses.org (NFN) and is a nurse practitioner; Sajjad Ahmed is CTO at Dell and co-founder of DevTek, a tech company; Adnan Ashraf is Cloud Automation Architect at Cisco and co-founder of DevTek.
Anonymity is critical for medical personnel in need of supplies, and it allows nurses and doctors to request supplies without fear of punishment. Cunningham told the Chronicle, “Medical staff who feel powerless and are being silenced do not have an outlet to voice their concerns. They can do so on VoiceoutGlobal.com anonymously and openly without fear of losing their jobs. Their willingness to be transparent and voice out unaddressed concerns at the frontline will hold management teams accountable for their actions or the lack thereof thereby putting the power back into our frontliners' hands. It is through openness to share information that will allow people with resources to reach out and extend solutions or a helping hand.”
Many kinds of supplies are being requested. She said, “NFN [Nurses for Nurses] first started receiving requests for personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, isolation gowns, [and] gloves. When they were unable to fulfill the needs due to a broken supply chain, due to lack of communication between all parties (supply, demand, middlemen, non-profit, the public, government), NFN approached [her] with the communication problem. [She] created Voiceout Global along with Sajjad and Adnan to bring all parties together in an attempt to pull the supply chain back together on one platform.”
Consider this example: A user requests a glove donation and then a supplier responds with price info. Once the two coordinate an agreement, they arrange logistics to get the gloves from the supplier to the medical staff in need. That might include a business that handles delivery services, or it could just be business to business. The general public (as well as other organizations) is encouraged to offer help as each group and scenario have different needs requiring different solutions.
During the pandemic, the personal protective equipment global and local supply chains have faced well-documented hurdles, and Voiceout has helped facilitate transactions. Cunningham explained that Texas Nurse Practitioners (TexasNP) needed supplies in a rural town, and using the platform were able to connect with the seller, ATX Medical, to bring the parties together in an agreement that mandated a portion of the proceeds go towards NFN in order to buy equipment to donate to others in need, which prompted another transaction in which Nurses for Nurses used a portion of the proceeds to purchase more PPE and donate supplies to nurses in need.
She added, “Partnerships between distributors have been formed to help each other with gaps they might not have been able to supply alone. Companies have repurposed their factories to provide supplies and use the platform to provide products [including] a company that is on the ground in China helping NFN receive and ship the product out.”
“We invite the general public to use Voiceout as well,” said Cunningham. “Social media has become a powerful tool – and we want the same vein of communication and connection on the Voiceout platform as if it were Facebook or LinkedIn.”
While the basic Voiceout platform is up and running, the small group behind the project plans to continue working on developments to improve the site – and welcome collaboration. Check the VoiceoutGlobal website for ways to participate and contribute. As for DFG Noodles, the trucks are still mobile and open for take-out; check their website and social media for locations and menu options.
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