Sometimes it’s hard to wrap our heads around numbers and impact. Since Community Food Rescue’s (CFR) launch in September 2015, our network of food recovery throughout Montgomery County has grown to include 129 food donor businesses, 48 food assistance organizations and 101 volunteer food runners. But can you visualize what 6,503 food runs looks like or the impact of rescuing and redistributing 2.8 million lbs. of food? Thanks to the great GIS mapping work at the Johns Hopkins Center for Livable Futures (JHCLF), using data tracked in our matching software, ChowMatch, we can now show growth in network members and food runs throughout Montgomery County.
CFR’s mission has been to create and support the network of those engaged in the trenches of food recovery—supporting food businesses that donate their unsold, surplus food, and matching these donations with non-profit food assistance organizations that provide a life-line of supplemental food to our neighbors experiencing hunger Manna Food Center, of which CFR is a part, picks up about 3.5 million lbs. of food from large grocers every year with its fleet of trucks and professional drivers.
CFR fills a niche to pick up smaller quantities of food of all types—raw and cooked food and fresh produce, in addition to shelf stable food. Our goal is to help smaller food donors—caterers, family farmers, local grocers, restaurants, and institutions like retirement homes, easily match and deliver to agencies.
On the receiving side, we also make it easy for small recipient organizations—sometimes all volunteer led– like schools, churches, and community centers to receive food for the people they serve. With the incredible help of volunteer food runners, CFR provides the conduit that moves food directly, quickly, and safely from donors to recipient organizations every day. Some of the food runs occur on a regular weekly basis; others are one-time runs that occur when there is food left after a catered party or after a farmer’s market. While the numbers may not be as massive, we know that these small organizations have a deep reach into their neighborhoods to make this food more easily accessible to people where they live. Our mission of growing and supporting a network helps everyone.
It’s been exciting to watch the CFR network attract new members, and increase the number
of food runs, amounts of food, and meals provided. Now, through the work of JHCLF, we can see the growth and geographic spread throughout the county.
Most of the food runs in CFR’s first five months reflected Manna’s well-established food runs (Map 1). In this map, food donors are represented in blue, recipient non-profits in red, and agencies like Manna that both receive and donate, in purple. The black lines represent food runs. It’s obvious that the early CFR food runs mostly emanated from Manna. When we remove the Manna pick ups and deliveries, you can better see CFR’s nascent runs (Map 2).
Since then, we’ve added about 90 food donor businesses in addition to Manna’s donors. For better viewing of CFR’s growth, we’ve removed Manna’s food runs from maps showing aggregated growth in 2016 and in 2017. At the end of 2017, CFR network has grown, as seen in Map 3.
As CFR continues to expand and redirect more food donations to our network members, mapping helps us better visualize where the growth occurs. To view a time lapse of the overall growth of the CFR network, CLICK ON MAP 3. Mapping will also help us better see gaps in the network so that we can target areas of greater need.