Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana is a network of hunger relief agencies covering 23 parishes (counties) across southern Louisiana, from the Texas to Mississippi borders. Its service area includes most of the state’s population, and includes populations that are unusually susceptible to climate and economic changes. To keep pace with demands during a time of crisis, the food bank relies on data from Feeding America’s service insights platform to track areas and indicators of increased need.
“Data plays a huge role for us,” said Lindsay Hendrix, Chief Impact Officer at Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana. “We know that behind every piece of data is a person who can be dramatically impacted by the work we do. We seek to always give each person the best service we can, and we can’t do that without data.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the food bank met hundreds of thousands of neighbors who needed support for the first time. Many communities were devastated by the revenue downturn in key industries like tourism, energy, and hospitality. The food bank used unemployment data to secure visibility and funding for the increase in demand, and demographic data to help focus on groups that were disproportionately affected, such as communities of color.
“Census data is very important to how we respond to the needs of a particular group,” said Hendrix. “If we want to best serve that community, it helps us make decisions about who best to partner with, how to conduct outreach, and many other factors.”
The Feeding America service insights platform gives Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana real-time data that enables them, for the first time, to report to stakeholders exactly who is being served at the food bank on a daily basis, including what zip code they’re arriving from, what their family composition is, the particular foods they need, and other data that can produce insights into ways their operations can be adjusted or improved.
“For example, we found that at a particular Second Harvest location in greater New Orleans, families were traveling long distances in order to access that pantry,” said Hendrix. “And we found out the reason was that it was open five days per week, which is a huge consideration for families facing hunger—they need food when they need it. So, we worked with other partners to try and open up more capacity in locations that were closer to these neighbors’ homes.”