CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute
Program: Healthy Food & Community Change
Area of Work: Health
Grant Purpose: Community Food Evaluation Workshop
Purpose: To launch the Community Food Evaluation Workshop
When the Illumination Fund wrapped up its Healthy Food & Community Change Initiative (HFCC), which supported more than 40 organizations over six6 years, the Fund worked with partners to identify strategies to build the capacity of community food organizations and strengthen the field going forward. One of the key needs that grantees and evaluators identified was to build organizations’ skills in evaluating and strengthening their programs. With the leadership of the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute (CUNY) — which had served as the evaluator for three of the Illumination Fund’s major grantees — the Illumination Fund supported the development and implementation of the Community Food Evaluation Workshop (CFEW), a collaborative and intensive effort to develop the capacity of organizations engaged in food work to strengthen the evidence base for meaningful, cost-effective evaluation studies that can guide practice and policy in New York City.
CUNY’s plan had several components:
- Provide short courses in evaluation of community food programs that assist staff at various levels to design, implement, and interpret evaluations of food programs and policies;
Develop a CUNY-approved certificate in evaluation of community food programs;
- Launch an Evaluation Technical Assistance Service to provide evaluation consultation to organizations to assist them to design feasible evaluation strategies for their community food interventions;
- Create a website with comprehensive resources on the evaluation of community food programs and policies including survey instruments and prior evaluation reports;
- Convene evaluation working groups to identify best practice, recommend standards for future work;
- Create a funded Food Evaluation Fellowship Program to provide intensive support to four
- Evaluation Fellows to develop and implement a comprehensive evaluation strategy for their organization.
Although the Illumination Fund’s impetus was to build the skills of its grantees, the CFEW was open to all organizations that conduct healthy food programs, whether or not they had been a grantee. By doing so, the CFEW was intended to strengthen the overall field.
Hosting free, publicly available short training courses in community food evaluation has been a tremendous opportunity for CUNY to support organizations conducting community food work in New York City. Over 70 individuals from 40 diverse organizations received evaluation training through 6 training sessions. Sessions included topics such as:
- How to Develop Evaluation Questions and Indicators for Community Food Work
- Using Surveys to Evaluate Community Food Work
- Using Qualitative Methods to Evaluate Community Food Work
- How to Access Publicly Available Data Sources for Community Food Work, and
- How to Use Evaluation to Support Fundraising for Community Food Work.
Feedback collected at the end of each session was overwhelmingly positive.
- When asked “how satisfied were you with today’s training?” 96% of participants responded that they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied.”
- When asked “how likely are you to recommend this training to colleagues or peers?” 95% of participants indicated that they were “likely” or “very likely” to recommend training.
- When asked “did you learn something new?” 94% of participants responded “yes” or “definitely yes.”
A key outcome secondary to the development of the evaluation training course was the creation and cultivation of evaluation resources that CUNY is continuing to share externally. Thirty-five resources have been curated and made publicly available on the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute website. In addition to the online resource hub, CUNY has developed a comprehensive portfolio of evaluation training material that can be deployed in numerous capacities.
Through the technical assistance service to community food organizations and the Fellowship program, nine local community food programs received one-on-one technical support for evaluation development and implementation. Participants included New Settlement Community Food Action, Community League of the Heights (CLOTH), Southside United HDFC-Los Sures, Children’s Aid Society, GrowNYC, Health Leads, West Side Campaign Against Hunger, Concrete Safaris, and the Jersey City Department of Health, Department of Food and Nutrition.
The benefits of the Community Food Evaluation Workshop programs will continue to manifest in future years, as organizations are better able to effectively capture and utilize meaningful data about their impact, and to leverage this data for program and policy interventions that improve the NYC community food landscape.