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Sample Essay Paper on Evaluating a Program at the Houston Food Bank

Evaluating a Program at the Houston Food Bank

Chosen Program Evaluation Method

The chosen method of program evaluation in this paper is the CIPP model. CIPP is an acronym for context, input, process, and product; it requires an evaluation of these elements to judge the value of a program. CIPP is a decision-focused model of evaluation that emphasizes information about the management and operations of a program and assessments of the needs and activities of the program’s decision-makers and stakeholders.

The process of evaluation in the CIPP model targets three levels or circles of a program. These are:

§  Core values that underlie the program

§  The evaluative foci of goals, plans, actions, and outcomes

§  Evaluation types/focuses that serve each of the four foci of evaluation: context, input, process, and product.

The process of evaluation integrates these levels in using the CIPP model to answer four fundamental questions:

§  What is the target/objective(s) of the program? This focus involves collection and analysis of information to determine the program’s priorities, goals, and objectives

§  How should/does implementation occur? This focus assesses the resources and steps necessary to meet the goals/objectives.

§  Does the program work as planned? This focus targets the effectiveness of the implementation of the program

§  Does the program work? This focus measures the program’s actual outcomes relative to the anticipated outcomes.

The choice of this model is relevant because it targets a systematic assessment of the relevance and effectiveness of a program from the perspectives of conception, design, execution/implementation, and service delivery. It offers information and feedback that is essential for judgment of the effectiveness, accountability, and continuous improvements of the program. The underlying theme in this model is that the most important purpose of the evaluation is to improve, rather than to prove. This means that the model is future-oriented, focusing on progression, rather than being judgmental, and seeking to provide information that decision-makers and stakeholders could utilize to improve the program.

The key limitation of this method is that it does not distinguish between evaluation and other processes of investigation, particularly needs assessment. This means that it combines both aspects in its procedures and mechanisms, rather than concentrating purely on program evaluation.

Program Evaluation

This paper presents an outcome evaluation of a program in a Texas human services agency/organization, the Houston Food Bank, which serves 18 counties in the southeast of Texas, alongside other partner food banks. The Houston Food Bank was founded in 1982 and is a member of Feeding America, a network of food banks across America. The Houston Food Bank operates from a warehouse in Houston, which is the most populous city in Texas and the southern U.S, and the sixth most populous across America. The food bank is one of the biggest in America in terms of the quantity of food distributed and the size of its facility. In the provision of its services, the food bank engages volunteers and focuses on balanced diets, nutritional education, and the provision of social services. The following analysis targets the efficiency, appropriateness, and effectiveness of Houston Bank’s program for its target community based on the CIPP method of evaluation. The key finding from the evaluation is that the Food Bank’s operations and activities serve to enhance food sufficiency, security, and nutritional value for southeast Texan children and teenagers, which lays a foundation for their educational success and broader wellbeing in their families and communities. The program alleviates the potential costs and adverse effects of food insecurity and insufficiency in the communities, thereby empowering them to focus and succeed in other areas of their lives and development, primarily in the area of educational success. The analysis establishes further that this impact is highly significant because educational achievement is an essential foundation for self-development, empowerment, and improved, long-term wellbeing among individuals and their communities.

Context - Target and Objectives of the Program

On its website, Houston Food Bank identifies its mantra or slogan as “Filling Pantries. Filling Lives”. Pantries are cupboards or small rooms for keeping food, cutlery, and crockery. The choice of this mantra in the Food Bank’s operations recognizes the important role of food in the lives and wellbeing of individuals in society. Besides being a basic necessity to sustain human beings physiologically (providing the energy that is necessary to maintain basic bodily functions), food is also an important determinant of the health and wellbeing of individuals. This is because of observations from the research of the role of food and dietary choices that individuals make and adhere to in the development of chronic lifestyle diseases and conditions. The organization’s stated mission, “Food for Better Lives”, features recognition of this significance of food and dietary choices in the lives of society members.

The organization considers itself and its operations as a solution to the issues of hunger and food waste. This concept references two extreme issues in access and use of food in the modern society. On the one hand, there is the issue of hunger, which is common among the poor and disadvantaged in society. These communities lack adequate food and food security, such that they are desperate for assistance to sustain their lives. On the other hand, some individuals and communities have adequate and excessive food for their use, resulting in waste. Food waste is undesirable and unethical because of the struggles of some communities with food security. In this context, the Houston Food Bank considers itself and its operations as a solution for these two extremes through achievement and maintenance of a balance between food surplus and hunger, and between communities in dire need of food and those with excessive food. The organization notes that it distributes 104m nutritious meals through a network of 1,500 community partners in southeastern Texas, benefitting a population of 0.8m annually.

Implementation - Resources and Steps to meet Stated Objectives at the Houston Food Bank

As noted above, the Texas Food Bank distributes nutritious meals through a network of community partners in the southeastern region of Texas, benefitting a population of 800,000 annually. The location of Houston Food Bank’s main facility is 535 Portwall in Houston. On its website, the organization notes that this facility is 308,000 square feet and consists of a kitchen, a warehouse, a food pantry, and a conference center. This facility hosts the activities of volunteers who process, store, and distribute food.

The Food Bank has also focused on incorporating green technology in its activities and operations to enhance efficiency and meet its social responsibilities, particularly in relation to environmental health and the sustainability of environmental resources. This effort is evident in its partnership with SolarSPARC programs to install 440 solar panels on its roof. These panels cover 5,300 square feet on the organization's roof and generate 96,000kWH each year. This technology helps the organization to substitute non-renewable and environment-destroying power generation methods with renewable energy. On an organizational level, the Houston Food Bank notes that this effort has helped to lower its utility bills, saving the equivalent of three meals each hour. The significance of this effort in the implementation of the organization's mission and goals relate to performance and achievement of the sustainable business model and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Sustainable business, as a concept, requires organizations to conduct their businesses and engage in strategies that cause minimal adverse effects on local societies, economies, and environments. This responsibility has a basis on the idea that local economies and communities have inalienable rights to the quality of resources in the environment and the protection of these resources as a matter of their rights as human beings and members of the same societies in which the organizations operate. The fulfillment of this principle applies in the Houston Food Bank’s incorporation of renewable energy generation methods in terms of the effect of minimizing its dependence on non-renewable and environment-harming methods of generating energy. On the other hand, CSR describes the deliberate self-regulation of businesses to contribute positively to the achievement of societal goals, particularly human rights, human health, and social and environmental wellbeing. In the Houston Food Bank's operations, this responsibility is evident in its deliberate adoption of a green strategy in the production of energy to minimize the potential adverse effect of its activities and business model, generally, on society, the environment, and the economy.

The organization features a diverse and highly experienced team of leaders to guide the implementation of its stated goal and objectives. The President and CEO, Brian Greene, has a BA and MA in Economics and has served on Feeding America Network committees and other Councils and Boards in advisory and managerial roles. Supporting the President is an experienced executive team, consisting of Kathy Fountain, Nicole Lander, Amy Ragan, and Matty Toomes as the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Impact Officer, Chief Development Officer, and Chief Operating Officer respectively. The organization also operates under the guidance and direction of a Board of Directors, which enables an effective model of decision-making to balance among the interests of diverse stakeholders and maintain the core identity and values of the organization as a non-profit entity. Further enabling the organization’s implementation of its mission and goals is an array of stakeholders and partners. As noted earlier, the Houston Food Bank utilizes the services of volunteers in its facility and operations. These volunteers number tens of thousands, serving in the roles of preparing, storing, and distributing food. The organization also partners with donors, schools, advocacy agencies, the government, and other diverse community organizations to avail resources and capacities that can advance its cause and goals.

Process - Effectiveness of Implementation

The effectiveness of the implementation of the Houston Food Bank's mission and goals can be assessed through an appraisal of its programs. On its website, the Food Bank notes that addressing and meeting the needs of its target community takes much more than providing food to fight hunger. This recognition relates to the fact that food and its availability play a more important role in human wellbeing than purely being a necessity for adequate and effective physiological functioning. Besides maintaining basic bodily functioning, food also serves as a critical determinant of the long-term health and wellbeing of individuals, especially in terms of preventing or promoting the development of chronic lifestyle diseases and conditions. In this context, besides providing food purely to fight hunger, it is also essential to ensure that the food that the Houston Food Bank provides to its target community is healthy and supports the long-term wellbeing of its members. The organization’s services also feature the philosophy that food and its provision are an essential part of the broader effort to empower disadvantaged communities to take active charge of their lives and overcome poverty conditions for sustainable development. This effort is essential to transform the target community and improve its wellbeing on a broader level.

Some of the initiatives and activities that the Houston Food Bank offers for its target community are Backpack Buddy, Community Kitchen, Community Assistance Program, Food for Change, Kids Café, Portwall Pantry, Nutrition Education, School Market, Red Barrels, Senior Box Program, and Teacher’s Aid. The analysis below shall focus on four of these initiatives: the Backpack Buddy, Community Assistance, School Market, and Teacher’s Aid programs.

The Backpack Buddy is an initiative for the provision of nutritious and kid-friendly food for at-risk K-12 grade children on weekends and summer meal program sites. The Food Bank notes that 1 in 4 children in southeastern Texas is at a high risk of hunger, implying their lack of consistent access to adequate nutritious food. These children rely on meals in their schools for lunch and breakfast during the school year. During breaks from school, such as on weekends and holidays, most of these children have little or no meals in their homes. The Food Bank’s initiative aims to fill this gap by providing nutritious and child-friendly foods that children can take home over weekends. The organization collaborates with participating schools, school districts, and other partners at the community level to ensure the success of this initiative. The Community Assistance initiative aims to help disadvantaged children and their families to apply and enroll in state-funded social and health services. This is a resourceful initiative for southeast Texan communities because it links them with affordable and effective services to promote their social wellbeing and health.

The School Market initiative aims to alleviate hunger among teenagers and children through the provision of food to students and their families in high and middle schools. Like the Backpack Buddy initiative, this one has a basis on the recognition that children in southeast Texas are at risk of hunger, such that they lack consistent access to sufficient nutritious food. Noting that children require nourishment for success, and that food nourishment is a basis for the wellbeing of the human body, mind, and spirit, this initiative offers hunger relief through meals for children in their schools. In particular, this initiative aims at improving access to nutritional foods among students in high school and middle school across southeast Texas. It involves the location of school markets on the campuses of these schools. The School Market team trains student volunteers who staff these markets and perform various roles to support their operations. These roles for students include setting up products for distribution, restocking, and cleaning up the areas. This means that besides providing the children with nutritious food, the initiative fosters the leadership skills of children in these schools, thereby influencing better school attendance, better educational performance, and a healthier community.

On its part, the Teachers Aid initiative involves the provision of school supplies for instructors in low-income schools. The rationale behind this initiative is the recognition that many families in the target community cannot provide school supplies. This inability undermines the success of children in school because they lack the right and adequate tools for educational performance. Owing to these difficulties, many empathetic teachers in the communities have had to pay for and obtain the school supplies themselves to ensure that their students are not at a disadvantage in school performance. The initiative aims to alleviate this problem by providing basic school supplies to assist in efforts to boost students’ educational success.

This program of initiatives and activities aligns perfectly with the goals and objectives of the Houston Food Bank. The initiatives support the philosophical standpoint in the organization’s mission that food and its provision and sufficiency promote and improve the lives and broader wellbeing of society members. The initiatives enhance security and sufficiency in food for southeast Texan children and teenagers, which lays a foundation for their educational success and broader wellbeing in their families and communities. The program alleviates the potential costs and adverse effects of food insecurity and insufficiency in the communities, thereby empowering them to focus on and succeed in other areas of their lives and development, primarily educational success.

Product - Actual Outcomes relative to anticipated Outcomes

As discussed in the context section earlier, the Houston Food Bank’s key mission is to provide food to communities in 18 counties in the southeast of Texas in ways that can foster improvements in their lives on a broader scale. The organization further considers itself and its operations as a solution to the problems of hunger and food waste through the achievement and maintenance of a balance between food surplus and hunger and between communities in dire need of food and those with excessive food.

In order to understand the appropriateness and potential effectiveness of the Houston Food Bank’s mission, focus, activities, and operations effectively, it is essential to review the population and socioeconomic conditions in southeast Texas. Generally, the southern part of the U.S. is the poorest. The southeastern part of Texas hosts a largely disadvantaged population, including Black and Hispanic households. Data from poverty research has illustrated that Black and Hispanic households and individuals are thrice as likely to live in poverty conditions relative to Whites. Southeastern Texas includes the Rio Grande Valley, in which the burden of poverty is highly significant and extensive. Metro areas in southeastern Texas host predominantly Hispanic communities, which have, for years, ranked as the poorest in the state. These communities include the Brownsville-Harlingen, McAllen, and Laredo metro areas. Data from research has illustrated that these are three of the poorest metropolitan areas in the U.S. The research has further illustrated strong linkages between poverty conditions and race/ethnicity. Black and Hispanic communities in southeastern Texas face disproportionate burdens with poverty, with Hispanics representing above half of the poor population in the state. These conditions in the region warrant the help that the Houston Food Bank provides because of the difficulties of food sufficiency and security. Besides the struggle with the adequacy of food, these conditions also imply difficulties in these communities’ abilities to obtain and use healthy and nutritious food.

The Food Bank achieves the stated objectives fairly, effectively, and successfully through the operations of its warehouse and its distribution of nutritious foods to at-risk children in southeast Texas. Through its partnership with donors and volunteers to prepare, distribute, and store food, and the use of its expansive 308,000-square foot facility at 535 Portwall, Houston, which includes a warehouse, the Food Bank facilitates a balance between food surplus and hunger. This is because individuals and communities with excessive food can donate some of it to the organization, which can then store and redistribute it to poor individuals and communities without food security. In this way, the organization prevents food waste. On the other hand, the company’s provision of nutritious food through its initiatives, as described above, helps to alleviate hunger and empower children and teenagers from low-income families and communities to focus and succeed in other areas of their lives and development, primarily in the area of educational success. By addressing the primary needs of food sufficiency and security, and ensuring that this food is nutritious, the Food Bank empowers these children and teenagers, and hence their communities, to focus more effectively on educational achievement. This impact is highly significant because educational achievement is an essential foundation for self-development, empowerment, and improved wellbeing at the level of both individuals and their communities. This impact is especially remarkable when one considers the organization’s own estimation that it distributes 104m nutritious meals through a network of 1,500 community partners in southeastern Texas, benefitting a population of 0.8m annually

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