The Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) has been providing food relief for those in need in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia for the past 40 years. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the region’s food insecure populations numbered around 400,000. However, since the pandemic, that number has increased by more than 50% to more than 600,000. Central to CAFB’s mission is providing hunger relief, but their long-term mission is to address the root causes of hunger and poverty. As part of its efforts to fulfill this mission, CAFB sought the help of WBA Research to gather data and insights to inform the organization and provide strategic direction. To understand the needs of long-term and newly food insecure CAFB clients, CAFB and WBA Research partnered to conduct qualitative and quantitative research.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic required some innovation in the methodologies employed to collect the data and information for this research. While traditionally WBA would deploy interviewers to food distribution sites to conduct interviews, the social distancing required by the pandemic necessitated a multimodal approach. CAFB clients were invited to participate via flyers, postcards, verbally and through various other means at food distribution locations. CAFB clients were given the opportunity to complete the survey by scanning a QR code if they had a smartphone, by accessing the survey’s URL or by calling a toll-free number. A total of more than 1,800 clients participated in the survey. This was followed by a series of focus groups and in-depth interviews (IDIs) among key segments of CAFB clients, such as those who are chronically food insecure, newly food insecure, mobility constrained, non-English speakers, seniors, and single mothers. Those willing to discuss their situation in a group setting took part in online focus groups, while those who preferred more anonymity could take part in in-depth Zoom or telephone interviews.
The results of all this research were combined into a comprehensive report that is being utilized by CAFB staff and partner agencies to advance their mission to address the root causes of hunger and poverty across the region.