by Doug McDurham, Director of Public Affairs, Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative
Published in 2017, “Ending Hunger in Oklahoma; An assessment of food insecurity and resources in Oklahoma,” included a statewide analysis of the sources of food assistance. According to the authors, my colleagues at the Texas Hunger Initiative (THI), 93% of food assistance in the state came through the Federal Nutrition Programs, primarily SNAP, WIC, and the child nutrition programs. The assessment went on to note that by increasing participation in these programs, Oklahoma could bring in an additional $404.5 million in food assistance per year. Imagine the impact that could have on food insecure children, seniors, veterans, and families.
But how do we get there?
The two figures highlighted in the above paragraph (93% & $404.5 million) seem simple enough but took a massive amount of data to calculate. Likewise, strategizing about how to reach that $404.5 million figure takes a lot of data and that data is readily available to the savvy, strategic-thinking, anti-hunger activist.
How does data help us strategize? Here are some of the ways I’ve seen over the past few years:
Maps helped food pantry volunteers recognize that Waco’s pantries were not located in the same neighborhoods as the highest concentrations of poverty. This allowed them to create new partnerships that maximized resources.
Texas Hunger Initiative’s Breakfast Report Card, released every two years, organizes program participation data to help school leadership identify which neighboring schools are having the most success increasing school breakfast participation. Then they can reach out for advice and ideas.
Hunger Free Community Coalitions use Census data to understand where there are pockets of low-income senior citizens so that they can target SNAP outreach.
Let’s get that $404.5 million pumped into the local economy and end hunger in Oklahoma together.
I am THI’s program expert and my colleague, Dr. Kathy Krey, is our data expert. We are excited to come to Oklahoma this fall and share with you some simple ways that you can find publicly available data and use it to strengthen your program interventions.
Take part alongside decision makers, practitioners, funders, and others to learn best practices, build partnerships, and mobilize to end hunger in Oklahoma. The conference will include a wide range of presentations on child nutrition, advocacy, SNAP outreach, farmers markets, and senior hunger.