“Stories substituting for facts is not an acceptable thing; it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.”
Anne Goodman, Greater Cleveland Food Bank
So I’ve gotten to know a lot of people over the 18 years I’ve been in foodbanking, and there are a lot of gut-wrenching, wonderful stories about people who have been in trouble and gotten food, and it’s changed their lives and provided them with hope. And it makes me feel good about what we do. But stories substituting for facts is not an acceptable thing. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to me, and the facts and the measurements and the outcomes are what make us a strong organization and why someone should invest in helping to fight hunger.
The first thing we can say easily is the number of meals that we’re distributing, but then we have to look at to whom we’re distributing them, how we are distributing them geographically. Are the programs that we’re distributing them to spread out enough? Is there duplication? Is there too much food going in one place or another? hat’s the nutritional balance geographically? What is the food distribution overlaid on poverty, overlaid on food stamp usage? There is so much data that we have. In fact, we have a person whose job it is to use GIS mapping and input our data in order to help us ask questions.
I think it’s also really important to constantly be pushing. We used to say, “Well, how many pounds per person in poverty are we distributing?” That’s what we talked about nationally. The requirement was to distribute, at the time, 50 pounds per person in poverty. Well we were distributing 130 pounds per person in poverty, so we were doing great. But wait, if you break it down by county, in Geauga County we were only distributing 16 pounds per person in poverty. Well then when you start looking at that, okay well Geauga County we have a lot of work to do. What are the barriers in Geauga County? Well they’re very different. There’s an Amish population out there. There are people that live 25 miles from a grocery store. There aren’t neighborhoods like there are in Cleveland. So, if you’re beginning to get an idea, when we can use that sort of data, we can not just measure what were doing, but that measurement gives us insight into how we’re directing programs.