Giving Compass’ Take:
• Kassandra Martinchek, writing for Urban Institute, describes how food banks need to implement strong evaluation tactics using randomized control trials to help measure success.
• In what other programs would RCTs help evaluate social programs?
• Read about the impact of food scholarships.
Programs that help families facing food insecurity can benefit from evaluations to understand how they are helping their communities and how they can improve.
However, evaluations can be challenging, and the gold standard for program evaluation—the randomized control trial (RCT)—can be a high bar for practitioners to meet.
Foodshare, a food bank in Hartford, Connecticut, was among four Feeding America network member food banks we spoke with that show how completing an RCT comes with rewards and challenges.
RCTs randomly assign similar people to either the treatment group, which receives services, or the control group, which does not, but whose outcomes are still measured. Well-designed RCTs can successfully tease out the causal effects of interventions, or what changes can be attributed to programs.
Some food banks have been able to implement RCTs to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs.
Foodshare implemented an RCT to evaluate its Freshplace program, which bundles a client-choice fresh-food pantry, case management services, and referrals to community services to help clients set and achieve goals. Subsequent programs and services are tailored to participants’ needs so they can be most beneficial to them.
The randomized evaluation found that households participating in Freshplace had significant improvements in food security, self-sufficiency, diet quality, and self-efficacy. Freshplace households showed a four-point increase in self-sufficiency scores (which measure levels of education, employment, income, health, housing, child care, and stress, with a total of 100 points) compared with similar households who didn’t participate in the program.
These early results suggest case management services paired with charitable food programs may positively impact families’ independence and food security status.
Read the full article about food bank programs by Kassandra Martinchek at Urban Institute.
If you are looking for more articles and resources for Food and Nutrition, take a look at these Giving Compass selections related to impact giving and Food and Nutrition.
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