A system-centric approach to feeding those in need

A system-centric approach to feeding those in need

Posted on October 15, 2015 by Sandra Frank

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of updates from organizations that received an ESO award (Engaging-Systems Centric-Outcomes) from The Patterson Foundation for their work during the Recoding Organizational DNA initiative.

Last year, The Patterson Foundation convened 16 organizations in series of “labs” to discuss our approach and perspective on homelessness in Sarasota. Recoding Organization DNA challenged the group to develop a shared understanding of the issues and to think about how we could work across our respective systems to cause change.

As a result of its participation, All Faiths Food Bank received the Outcomes Award and The DNA ESO Award. The awards were accompanied by a generous gift, which we used to create and implement a new system to collect information on client demographics, food needs, utilization and satisfaction with our services.

We piloted the new Client Information Management System (CIMS) at our summer food sites as part of our 2015 Campaign Against Summer Hunger. CIMS proved to be an invaluable learning tool and, for the first time ever, we have unduplicated data on number of households and children that received food.

We included a number of qualitative questions to help us improve our summer programs and services to families. For example, CIMS is now providing us with important information on the barriers that parents encounter as they try to feed their children over the summer. We’re also learning about culturally appropriate marketing and communication strategies to better inform parents about the availability of summer meals.

We are currently analyzing the CIMS data from the summer food programs and, within a few weeks, we’ll provide a community report on the successes and lessons learned from the 2015 Campaign Against Summer Hunger. Progress continues this fall as we expand CIMS to the All Faiths Food Bank Mobile Pantries and school-based pantries.

The Patterson Foundation's gift may have an even broader impact. Client data tracking is relatively new to food banking and only a few food banks in the country have online systems. All Faiths Food Bank was selected by its national organization, Feeding America, to help design the first-ever national framework for food banks to collect data, identify best practices and provide more efficient reporting. All Faiths was chosen because it is considered a trendsetter in data collection and because CIMS has the potential to support broader research and evidence building.

The outcome of Recoding Organizational DNA – our Client Information Management System – has become embedded in the work of All Faiths Food Bank. Nine months after the conclusion of the labs, All Faiths continues to test its activities against the three objectives of the Marbut Plan:

  • Are we enabling or empowering?
  • Are we being agency-centric or system-centric?
  • Are we measuring outputs or outcomes?

All Faiths was strengthened and enlightened by its work with The Patterson Foundation. We move forward knowing that the changes we’ve made will help us reach our ultimate goal: to end hunger. For more information, please contact Sandra Frank at sfrank@allfaithsfoodbank.org or visit our website allfaithsfoodbank.org.


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