It’s hard to believe, but a year has gone by since we started our work with MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger on research related to innovation among hunger-relief agencies. Together we have identified the core of how change happens on the ground at food pantries and meal providers on topics related to the sourcing of nutritious, local food; fostering an organizational culture committed to wellness; and much more.
Innovation is such a buzzword these days; to help define it for our work, we focused on innovation suitable for community organizations of varying missions and resources — both big and small, as innovation is relative. And the innovations we found most key were those that could be adapted and scaled. They could be as grand as an entirely new initiative or as small as a nuance of a change that dramatically improved the results of an otherwise reliable, standby program.
Here is one highlight of the many innovations that captured our attention:
Each month, the Maryland Food Bank convenes about a dozen meetings that include participants that represent food pantries and soup kitchens, along with other allied, local organizations that might not distribute food. Groups are organized by zip code to keep the focus hyper-local, and many more of these convenings are slated for the future.
We simply love that the food bank is getting organizations together not to ask the expected questions of satisfaction with their program offerings, but to more deeply serve those in need by fostering collaboration among community organizations beyond the food bank. And they’re doing it in such a way that there is the potential to help get to some of the root causes of poverty.
MAZON and Food Works Group are looking at how to most effectively and efficiently share the innovations we have identified for greatest impact in the field, so keep an eye out for more news on this front in the coming months.
What innovation has caught your eye lately?