Food@100%: Innovation 1
Tracking Supply and Demand
The projects presented in the ten innovations areas are all designed to address barriers to vital services. Action teams should review all projects and prioritize those that have the best chance of addressing the barriers identified in the 100% New Mexico countywide survey. Your collaborative and result-focused local work is nothing less than heroic.
Project 1: The “all-important food supports analysis” project
Unlike other services like transportation, we don’t track every single time somebody uses a food pantry or food support service in a community or faith-based center.
No single number will give you a complete picture of the situation. However, by gathering multiple data sources and tracking them over time, you should be able to get an idea of how much food insecurity there is in your community. Here’s your list:
- Schools: School data on reduced or free lunch and breakfast, backpack weekend food programs, etc.
- Food banks: Food banks typically keep track of the number of meals they serve and the type of people using the service (e.g. families, single men, etc).
- Faith-based resources: Food support programs in faith-based and community-group settings may keep data and might be willing to make it available.
- Homeless shelters and soup kitchens: Some may keep data on their residents needing food. Unlike the government, they’re not necessarily obligated to give you the data, but they probably will.
- Domestic violence shelters: They may track visits to food support in the shelter program. Maybe take snapshot once per month and track over time.
- Child welfare data: While not easy to acquire, there may be a way to assess data on adult and child clients needing food support.
- American Community Survey: The ACS is an ongoing survey that provides vital information on a yearly basis about the United States and its people. Information from the survey generates data that help determine how more than $675 billion in federal and state funds are distributed each year.
As mentioned, this won’t be as simple an assessment as the transportation situation, but if you get these numbers, you should at least be able to tell if the situation in your community is going in a good or bad direction. In this project, you will be gathering as much data as you can to paint a picture of local food programs. This is a first step in identifying challenges.
Project 2: The “can you get food there or here?” project
Good food security planners will figure out where people are concentrated and then plan service accordingly. Many systems, however, are pretty haphazard affairs that never really do this kind of self assessment. Luckily, using census data, your own eyes and Google Maps, you can do it for them. First, learn how to do custom drawings on Google Maps (an internet search will lead to some tutorials). Looking at the American Community Survey, Google Earth satellite images, and the results from your Resilient Community Experience Survey should give you enough to get started.
Project 3: The “does our food support go where it should” project
Your food system (notice the term “system,” as it should be one seamless system serving the entire county) should serve all residents, but especially your community’s most critical areas: communities with high rates of child welfare involvement, low income areas, areas with high unemployment and high schools with low achievement and high dropout rates. Find or make a map of the county, then make a map of all “high risk” areas and all food support programs. Then see how well those two maps overlap. Also take a look at service frequency. Are food supports being offered when the need is the highest? Whether food supports “serve” the most critical areas depends on more than what the map looks like.
One issue to tackle will be transportation. One type of food support may well be the next town over from where the need for that particular service is the greatest. Can you get there from your town? Often the answer is no, especially in places where state transit leaders have ceded their planning authority to county leaders. This may lead your action team to talks with the transportation action team (and possibly more teams).