Hunger Relief Innovation: Part 1

Hunger-relief agencies across the country are developing innovative ways to communicate with each other and, in doing so, increase the scale of their efficiencies. Communication between such agencies, which include organizations like soup kitchens (meal providers) and food pantries, enables them to share resources and ultimately increase hunger awareness in their communities.  In this two-part series, with the second post to be released next week, we will focus on two particularly innovative efforts. The Maryland Food Bank’s Network Partner Area Councils (NPACs) and Access of West Michigan are effecting very powerful change in their communities.       

Food Works Group is pleased to have worked with our long-time client, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, on identifying scalable and adaptable strategies and programs in hunger relief so as to help agencies progress in their efforts to address both hunger and health crises in the communities they serve. The Maryland Food Bank’s NPAC model is truly a stand-out. They are comprised of location-based groupings of hunger-relief agencies that serve as partners to the Maryland Food Bank, including shelters, pantries, and soup kitchens.  Each collaborative group works together to holistically address hunger in their specific communities, rather than address hunger on a crisis-by-crisis basis.

After the Maryland Food Bank establishes each group, the participants meet regularly, typically once or twice each month, to determine how they can collectively improve their services, outreach, and community impact.  Most NPAC organizations coordinate their hours of operation, ensuring community members have access to food services as frequently as possible.  In addition, the groups look to provide services beyond food assistance.  They either provide services, or direct community members to alternative organizations, that focus on health, housing, and employment issues.  Finally, the NPACs collect information on their communities for the Maryland Food Bank.  This helps the Food Bank better serve each community’s specific needs.

Currently, 132 organizations make up 15 NPACs, though the Maryland Food Bank expects this number to grow.  We think this program is absolutely outstanding and certainly at the forefront of hunger-relief innovation!  Check back next week when we highlight another great program - Access of West Michigan.