Baleigh Goforth, Research Assistant
In 2019, NS4ed began working with the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee. The relationship started due to a community announcement that donors were needed. NS4ed expanded its assistance to offer service-oriented support beyond financial support. Employees from NS4ed started on-site volunteering at the Second Harvest warehouse by packaging food, where they began to learn more about the company. When NS4ed heard about the school pantry program, which focuses on helping children and their families in counties and schools where the need for food is the greatest, the company realized an overarching need for data from the pantries. Through this relationship and partnership, NS4ed wanted to extend its services to provide research that could potentially help Second Harvest expand and offer more services in the surrounding communities. In July of 2021, NS4ed began developing a survey for Second Harvest to gather information on the demographics and food insecurity of individuals utilizing the school pantry program.
The Survey (including general results and demographics)
The current ongoing study focuses on the 14 school pantries in East Tennessee. The survey covers three main topics: demographic information, food security, and specific pantry feedback. Results show that individuals accessing the school pantries are adults 25 years of age and older, most of whom have children. These areas’ education and employment levels are lower than the state averages, some by drastic measures. Food security levels are at a tremendous low, with more than half of respondents considered food insecure and almost one-quarter having “very low” food security. Participants said that their school pantry gives them and their families a sense of security and that this program is “…very needed in [the] communities.”
Leaders from Second Harvest and volunteers from NS4ed (Research Assistant Baleigh Goforth leads the research efforts) have collaborated to get these surveys to every school in the school pantry program. Second Harvest provided iPads to access the surveys on distributing them to individuals at the pantry. When someone came for groceries at the pantry, they were asked to take a brief survey to better understand the local demographics and needs. Surveys were completely anonymous. To date, NS4ed assisted at five school pantries with plans to visit the remaining 9 to gather comprehensive data for Second Harvest.
NS4ed is proud to be a part of a significant community effort led by Second Harvest. We hope these surveys will provide insight into School Pantry Programs for Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee and anywhere else in the country addressing food insecurities.