This post was written by guest blogger Kelli Walker, Director of Corporate Partnerships at Feeding America
Cisco has been a significant strategic partner with Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization. Since 2009 Cisco has helped fund various pilots that use technology to increase efficiency in our operations, transportation, and food sourcing throughout the Feeding America national network of 200 food banks. Strategic thought partners like Cisco have allowed our network to feed more than 46 million people in need every year.
Cisco played a huge role in our outreach to Springwire, an agency that provided, among other things, community voice mail, to help people in need stay connected to loved ones, resources, and support services. In 2014, Springwire management and technology transitioned to Feeding America.
As part of this transition, we are undergoing an 18-month period of research and development to determine the need, feasibility, and potential for leveraging Springwire technology to communicate with our clients. We have 15 host sites serving 18 areas, two of which are Feeding America member food banks. We have added new clients as well as continued to offer services to current Springwire clients, more than 80% of whom are homeless or are at risk. Twenty-one percent have dependents and 11 to 15% are veterans.
In addition to the community voice mail program, we are providing a communication hub to clients. Local program managers post weekly resources to a blog that then pushes information to users via email, text and social media. Clients and service providers can opt-in to this service.
As important as it is to provide consistent and high quality service for Springwire clients during this time of transition, Feeding America concurrently is conducting an assessment of the current landscape of the intersection of technology and our clients. For example, how prevalent are cell phones and smartphones, what social media channels do our clients use, and how can we use technology to push out information to clients as well as receive information from them?
There is a lack of clear research on what methods work best for communicating with low-income households; there is also a great need for longitudinal research for hunger relief. With Cisco’s support, Feeding America is able to explore these challenging but meaningful conversations. Springwire community voice mail and communication hubs may provide the appropriate resources to help our clients on their path to self-sustainability, a goal that underlines the mission of domestic hunger relief.
Conducting any kind of pilot program—but especially a program that involves special populations and deeply rooted social issues—provides amazing opportunities for growth, learning, and potentially massive shifts in thinking and strategy. Feeding America is so fortunate to have a partner in Cisco, a partner who believes in the transformative “power of human collaboration and networked connections.”
About Feeding America
Feeding America is the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs in communities across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate. Together we can solve hunger. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
Kelli Walker is the Director of Corporate Partnerships at the Feeding America National Office in Chicago. She works with a portfolio of corporate donors on multi-tiered partnership plans that include philanthropic investments, product donation, cause marketing, and employee engagement. She has worked in development/fundraising for 20 years, in higher education, health care, the arts and human services.