Partnership Makes it Possible: An Update on CONNECT

Posted on 08-01-2019

Foundation Communities’ Healthy Food Pantry Project (HFPP) aims to reduce food insecurity in Travis County. Since its launch in 2018, the project has opened 11 food pantries in the community, providing residents with access to healthy, fresh foods. To build on this early success, Foundation Communities looked to answer two critical questions: How can we increase attendance and awareness of our food pantries, and how can we increase the nutritional knowledge of our residents?

To answer this question, the organization needed a strong data foundation – and that’s where CONNECT enters the picture. In a previous blog post, we featured this innovative program which pairs Central Texas organizations working toward social good with the next generation of nonprofit and public sector leaders, graduate students with the expertise to address measurement-related challenges.

Through this partnership, a graduate student conducted surveys at all 11 food pantries, delivering an analysis of the findings along with final recommendations to program staff. The evaluation will inform decisions on adding additional signage and education materials, while survey data will be used to address areas for growth at individual pantries. The project also initiated conversations with another nonprofit organization, Leah’s Pantry Nutrition Pantry program, exploring a partnership to better support residents through a trauma-informed approach to nutrition education.

HFPP is just one of nine projects from eight organizations that were matched with graduate students through the CONNECT program during its first cohort this spring. All participating organizations and graduate students reported 100% satisfaction with their participation in the program, with three organizations and seven graduate students re-applying to participate again in the summer cohort. For a closer look at the challenges addressed and deliverables produced by the Spring 2019 project cohort, visit CONNECT’s project library and the Spring 2019 Project Cohort Report.

Upcoming opportunities to be matched with a graduate student include the Spring 2020 and Summer 2020 cohorts. For more information click here to view FAQs or reach out directly to alyssa.studer@austin.utexas.edu.