457321 How Big Data Can Help Local Community Leaders Optimize Food Security

Monday, November 14, 2016: 12:56 PM
Union Square 15 & 16 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Karl Schnelle, Dow AgroSciences LLC, Indianapolis, IN

In 2013, a partnership was formed between the Indy Hunger Network and Dow AgroSciences Hunger Solutions Network. Both Networks were formed to have a measurable impact on hunger in underserved local communities surrounding Indianapolis, IN, USA. In Indianapolis as well as across the US, one in six people are food insecure. One of the common goals for this partnership was to determine the optimal locations for services to meet the real needs of clients of various food-providing community organizations. The IHN identified the needs and requirements, while the HSN brought project management, big data acquisition and organization, and data analytics skills to the table. Since the partnership was formed, several organizations have benefitted from this work. 

First, the Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis asked the team to help place their next large food pantry. As a result of this work, a large pantry was up and running in 2015 in an underserved area of the city. Next, a group of community organizations needed help in understanding gaps in where senior meals were being served (congregate meal sites). Thirdly, the Women, Infants, and Children Program in the County requested help in locating a new health clinic. Based on the team’s modeling, Marion County officials changed the planned location of the next planned clinic to the team’s top recommendation.

Finally in 2016, the large Summer Servings program for children, sponsored by the USDA and administered by IHN, was worried that holes existed in their coverage so that many food insecure children were missing the opportunity for a free meal during the summer. The team identified several areas where gaps should be filled by new sites. These big data analytics projects would not have been successful if there had not been the link to the local community to identify needs and identify the client base. Next steps are to find ways to leverage this methodology to other communities and obtain a larger–scale impact.

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