School of Public Policy Capstones

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The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts strives to eliminate hunger in the region by providing resources and food donations to member agencies. In response to a lack of capacity in many of these agencies, the Food Bank established a capacity building grant in 2012 to assist in providing items such as freezers, refrigerators and computers along with many other possible options. The Food Bank collaborated with a graduate student research team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to provide an evaluation of the program in order to assess the success of the grant and to find further ways to improve member agencies.

By conducting focus groups, implementing telephone surveys and by visiting one of the agencies, the research team was able to provide a comprehensive analysis of the member agencies in Hampden County, as this is the region that has the greatest need for increased food distribution. By comparing self-reported results of goals and results, the team was able to conclude that the capacity building grant was successful. In addition to gathering information on goals and results, the team also compared the pounds of food distributed prior to the grant with self-reported data after the grant was received. This information reveals an increase in food distributed, which can indicate the success of the grant. Overall, the agencies were extremely satisfied with the grant and would apply again.

In addition to gathering information on the grant, the team also focused on the actual grant process and gathered feedback on what the Food Bank can do to improve the process for all involved. Overall, the agencies were satisfied with the grant process and have provided feedback on anything that the Food Bank can do to improve the process.

Finally, the team gathered information on future goals and aspirations of the agencies in order to discover what the Food Bank can further do to help. Most agencies are seeking future financial support, both in terms of infrastructure and in terms of service. By providing data on the utility of certain items requested and breaking down the success of the grant, the information provided can be crucial in aiding the fight against hunger in western Massachusetts.