People

Food Bank Creates ‘Road Map To End Hunger’ With One Bus Already En Route

April 27, 2016Posted by Terry Turner

Even if you don’t feel hunger, you can see it in these maps of the world’s most powerful city — and some of America’s richest counties.

Fighting hunger in and around Washington, DC involves a lot of moving parts: 500 partner groups have been distributing 45 million pounds of food to 500,000 people every year.

Yet, food hasn’t always been reaching people in need.

Thanks to a new virtual roadmap to food security, the “invisible” pockets of impoverished people can now be found, easily. The Washington, DC-based Capital Area Food Bank used “big data” to figure out where people in need were figuratively “missing the bus” on food help, then literally sent a bus out to feed them.

The map also allowed CAFB to fine-tune its feeding strategy overall, leading to a redeployment of resources that more accurately targeted food distribution to neighborhoods that needed it most. CAFB worked with Applied Predictive Technologies to crunch their numbers on need, deliveries, and partner groups into a series of “heat maps,” which compares data between regions based on deliveries, need, income levels, and more.

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The maps above illustrate the areas where pockets of the greatest food insecurity exist, on the left, while the dots at right show where CAFB and its 500 partners hand out food. As a result, CAFB was able to “see” how those moving parts were turning — and to spot places where the machine was broken— for the very first time.

When they overlaid these maps together into a new map, below, they saw surprising pockets of need for food in bright red, where no reliably deliveries were getting through.

It was the digital equivalent of aerial reconnaissance — giving planners at CAFB a view of the battlefield in their war on hunger.

What instantly stood out was a remarkable need in the suburbs of Fairfax County. It ranks fifth on the Forbes list of the wealthiest counties in America, but there, in the lower left hand corner of the map, are three glaring pockets of dark red — each showing a need for 150,000 pounds of food per year.

By comparing the locations of partner groups and existing distribution centers in one layer, then overlaying those dots on a map showing neighborhoods with greatest need, CAFB staffers can instantly see where they are missing the bus.

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One of the immediate actions they took was to roll out a mobile feeding station, a converted school bus, to travel to places that weren’t being served. CAFB had used it over the summer to deliver 200 meals per day to children who government feeding programs weren’t serving (see the video below).

There is a great deal of potential to send this bus and others like it to other areas in Northern Virginia — not just to individual children, but whole neighborhoods—and across the United States.

You can tool around with the map at CAFB’s interactive site, or read the full story, map by map, of what the food bank learned as they mapped their exploration of hunger at the organizations “Story Map” site.

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