Philanthropedia Blog

Archive for February, 2012

Nonprofit Research on Access to Healthy Food in Minnesota

February 21st, 2012

Overview

Philanthropedia is currently partnering with Minnesota Philanthropy Partners to conduct research to identify expert-recommended high-impact nonprofits that increase access to healthy food in Minnesota, in hopes of raising more awareness on this topic.

 

Did you know that two-thirds of the nation is overweight or obese? Supporting healthier eating habits and educating families and individuals about nutritious food choices are key components to fighting the obesity epidemic.

Scope of Research

In preparation for this research, we spoke with ten experts to better understand the issue area of access to healthy food in Minnesota. Their insights have helped define the scope of this research. (Thank you to those of you who offered your time and expertise!)

For this research, we are asking experts to recommend up to four nonprofits doing high-impact work across the state of Minnesota, and up to two start-up nonprofits that have the potential to do high-impact work.

In particular we are asking experts to recommend nonprofits that are:

 

  1. Working in the emergency food system
  2. Addressing geographic access problems
  3. Engaging in the agricultural policy system
  4. Working with school food programs
  5. Supporting farmers markets

 

1.    Emergency food system

The emergency food system is an established system in which the government, corporations and other donors provide monetary or food donations to food banks. The donated food or purchased food then gets distributed to the food shelves, food pantries, and organizations with meal programs.

One of the largest factors that limit the emergency food system from providing food to people in need is the lack of capacity of food shelves and other partner organizations to house the food stuffs. This particularly affects fresh produce donations because their shelf lives aren’t as long as dry goods. Another issue these organizations confront is to what extent they provide ethnically specific food. Minnesota is home to large populations of Somalis, East Africans, Southeast Asians, Latinos and Eastern Europeans. Providing food that is a part of a family’s traditional diet is not only culturally sensitive, but it can reduce the amount of wasted food that comes from giving families foods with which they are unfamiliar. Food shelves and food pantries often try to provide ethnically specific food, but they must balance the desire to accommodate ethnic palettes with the increased cost of stocking such items. Recently, there has also been a growing demand for healthier food options within the emergency food system. However, food distributors often struggle to meet this demand because they are often unable to control the type of food that is donated.

2.    Geographic access

For many years, low-income urban and rural communities have faced limited opportunities to purchase healthy food. The term food desert is often used to describe areas with severely limited access to grocery stores and healthy food options. For example, some residents on reservations in Northern Minnesota live almost an hour round trip from the nearest grocery store. Often, residents in these areas rely on expensive, fatty, processed foods sold at convenience/corner stores. At times, these corner grocery stores buy produce directly from the closest available large grocery store. As a result, the cost of produce at these convenience stores is highly prohibitive and the supply is low. One means of addressing this problem is by providing corner stores access to lower cost produce in order to increase their healthy food supply. City planning can also help low income communities gain access to healthy, affordable food in the long term.

3.    Reforming the agriculture system

It is important to understand the significant role that food and agricultural policy play in ensuring access to healthy food; in many ways policy drives nutrition.  For example, federal policies heavily subsidize corn and soy production. As a result, a large majority of food in the U.S. is a by-product of corn and soy (e.g. high fructose corn syrup).  Whereas, the production of fresh fruits and vegetables and food production on small family farms get very little institutional support.

Those supporting access to healthy food work to increase support for a variety of produce items as well as advocate on behalf of local, family farms.  Without these smaller farms, healthy produce would be severely limited. Types of support for local farms might include technical support, raising awareness of what subsidies are available, and also helping farmers advocate for themselves.

4.    School food programs

Schools are both one of the largest institutions that distribute food and a great place to educate about healthy eating habits. As a result, the “farm to school” movement developed to help schools purchase fresh produce from local farmers. Additionally, several organizations have developed programs to educate students about healthy eating so children can learn new habits and also potentially influence their parents’ eating habits.

5.    Farmers markets

Minnesota has a vibrant farmer’s market community which can be a great source of healthy, fresh food. However, most vendors at these markets aren’t equipped to accept food stamps. Therefore, to align incentives, there is a new effort underway to help vendors be able to accept and process food stamps. These markets play an important part in supporting local farmers and in making healthy food an affordable option.

 

Additional Research Details

In addition to the five areas outlined above, we are encouraging experts to consider the following types of organizations when making their recommendations:

  • Food banks, food shelves/food pantries, meal programs
  • Research organizations
  • Policy and advocacy organizations
  • Nutrition education organizations

Participation in the Research

Therefore, if you are a nonprofit expert working in the field of access to healthy food in Minnesota, you should have received an email from us with a link to our survey. The survey will be open until mid-March, 2012. We hope you will share your perspective and insights! If for some reason we have missed you and you think you have a valuable perspective to offer, please contact Jasmine Marrow at jasmine.marrow@guidestar.org, and we would love to send the survey to you to include your insights.

Additionally, we invite your feedback and thoughts about how you might frame this type of work. For those readers less familiar with this topic, we hope you learned something new and will check in again when we have the results of this research. Thank you all for your participation!

 

 

Nonprofit Research on Access to Arts and Culture in Minnesota

February 21st, 2012

Overview

As part of Philanthropedia’s custom research partnership with Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, we are working to identify expert-recommended high-impact nonprofits that increase access to arts and culture in Minnesota.

Minnesota has a diverse arts eco-system. The state has numerous community arts organizations and large arts institutes, as well as an established system of 11 regional arts councils to help make the arts more reflective of their communities.

Minnesota is a pioneer state in providing funding to the arts sector. In 2008, Minnesota voters passed the Legacy Amendment. The Amendment increases sales tax by three-eighths of one percent to distribute to four funds, including the Arts and Cultural Fund (ACHF)which receives 19.75% of overall Legacy funding.

Despite Minnesota’s demonstrated commitment to the arts and the existing arts infrastructure, many groups are still under-represented in the arts. Organizations across Minnesota are working to address those disparities and MN Partners has asked Philanthropedia to help identify nonprofits having the greatest impact in the field.

Scope of Research

In order to prepare for this research, we spoke with ten experts from key organizations working in the issue area of access to arts and culture in Minnesota. Their insights have helped define the scope of this research. (Thank you to those of you who offered your time and expertise!)

For this research, we are asking experts to recommend up to four nonprofits doing high-impact work across the state of Minnesota, and up to two start-up nonprofits that have the potential to do high-impact work.

In particular we are asking experts to recommend nonprofits that are:

  1. 1. Increasing arts and culture opportunities for populations who don’t have access to the arts
  2. 2. Directly supporting artists
  3. 3. Supporting under-resourced types of arts
  4. 4. Providing opportunities for non-arts people to participate in the arts

1.    Increasing arts and culture opportunities for populations who don’t have access to the arts

The populations least represented in the arts in Minnesota include communities of color, low-income communities, rural communities, immigrant and refugee communities, and people with disabilities. In Minnesota, the largest communities of color are the African American community, the Asian American community, the Native American community and the Latino community. Minnesota is also home to the largest Somali population in the United States[1] and the largest Hmong community in the world outside of Asia[2]. Unique, yet smaller immigrant communities in Minnesota include the largest group of Oromo – an ethnic group from Ethiopia – outside of that country, the second largest group of Tibetans in the U.S., and a concentration of West African refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone.

While definable barriers such as cost and geographic isolation inhibit access, there are also physiological barriers that keep under-represented communities away from arts opportunities. For example, some individuals may not feel comfortable in arts settings because the work presented is not culturally relevant to them.  In instances like this, lowering some of the more tangible barriers may not result in increasing representation.  Hence, it is important to make the arts accessible in all stages of the process including curation, creation, funding, and evaluation. An example of this kind of inclusion would be if an organization were to develop a performance about traditional Asian narratives written, directed by and featuring Asian Americans.

2.    Directly supporting artists

Traditionally, it has been difficult for artists to earn a living wage for their craft, which can reduce the quantity and quality of art being produced. For this reason, it is important to directly support artists. The McKnight Foundation, a major funder in the arts and culture sphere, has recently shifted toward this strategy to fulfill its mission. Examples of support for artists include paying artists for their work, providing technical assistance to artists as small business owners, and helping communities understand artists’ value and identifying opportunities to collaborate. Therefore, part of this movement is to frame artists as individuals with unique, critical perspectives that can be useful in many facets of community life.

3.    Supporting under-resourced types of arts

Within the arts community, some types of artistic expression are often overlooked. For example community arts or less popular arts disciplines such as political theater, performance art, electronic arts, and video art are often overlooked for funding. Therefore, we decided to include “providing support for under-resourced arts disciplines” as part of our research.

4.    Providing opportunities for non-arts people to participate in the arts

The art world can be intimidating and, at times, exclusive. Many community members may feel that the arts are only accessible to artists or people with a specific arts talent. The experts with whom we spoke believe there is value in connecting people of all skill levels to the arts. And in fact, there is a growing movement to remove this particular stigma from this sector. One example of how one might invite widespread participation is to host a production in which all people who are interested are invited to be part of the show. Another example is to engage individuals as decision makers, empowering audiences and board members to choose what works they would like to see.

Additional Research Details

In addition to the four areas outlined above, we are encouraging experts to consider the following types of organizations when making their recommendations:

  • Traditional arts and culture organizations: theatre, dance, music, visual arts, television, media, and film organizations
  • Funders: organizations that fund nonprofit organizations or artists themselves
  • Policy and advocacy organizations: groups that organize people to support arts in the public policy space
  • Non-arts nonprofits: social service organizations that have an arts component but aren’t primarily arts organizations
  • Units of community education: schools or organizations that teach arts

Additionally, experts are encouraged to consider the following kinds of arts disciplines:

  • Design and architecture
  • Literary arts (comics, literature, poetry)
  • Media arts (Film/Video, new media, interactive computer based virtual art)
  • Performing arts (dance, opera, theatre)
  • Visual arts (ceramics, design, fashion, multi-media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, 3D, 2D, fiber arts)
  • Music (blues, classical, country, electronic, folk, hip hop, international, jazz, rock/pop)

Participation in the Research

Therefore, if you are a nonprofit expert in the field of access to arts and culture in Minnesota, you should have received an email from us with a link to our survey. The survey will be open until mid-March, 2012. We hope you will share your perspective and insights! If for some reason we have missed you and you think you have a valuable perspective to offer, please contact Jasmine Marrow at jasmine.marrow@guidestar.org, and we would love to send the survey to you to include your insights.

Additionally, we invite your feedback and thoughts about how you might frame this type of work. For those readers less familiar with this topic, we hope you learned something new and will check in again when we have the results of this research. Thank you all for your participation!

Learn more about arts, culture and access in Minnesota:

The Legacy Amendment

 


[1] The McKnight Foundation “Immigrant Gateway: Framing the Issue” accessed in Feb 2006 at http://www.mcknight.org/hotissues/framing_immigrants.aspx and League of Women Voters and Minnesota’s Education Fund.  “Immigration in MN: Changing Faces Changing Communities.” Accessed February 2006 at:

http://www.lwvmn.org/EdFund/ImmigrationInMinnesota.asp.

[2] Fettig, David and Rolnick, Arthur J. “Credit Availability: A snapshot of the Hmong business community in Minneapolis and St. Paul.”  Accessed in Feb 2006 at: http://Minneapolisfed.org/pubs/cd/03-1/credit.cfm.

 

Custom Research for Minnesota Philanthropy Partners

February 21st, 2012

In 2011, Minnesota Philanthropy Partners commissioned Philanthropedia to conduct custom research to identify expert-recommended high-impact nonprofits in Minnesota focused on the environment and workforce development. The results for the environment research were published in November 2011 in their flagship publication, MNSights, and MN Partners will be featuring the workforce development results in the spring issue of MNSights (April 2012).

We are pleased to announce that we are partnering with MN Partners once again to identify expert-recommended high-impact nonprofits working in Minnesota. In this round of research, we will explore two new issue areas: access to healthy food and access to arts and culture.

Our custom research program gives community foundations, like MN Partners, and other organizations the opportunity to uncover nonprofits in their community making a significant impact on the issues local community members care about. Philanthropedia’s high quality research can be shared with donors to encourage them to fund the organizations doing the most outstanding work in their community.

If you’re interested in learning more, please contact Jasmine Marrow, at jasmine.marrow@guidestar.org or 650-200-3705.

 

Saying Goodbye

February 1st, 2012

February 2, 2012 is my last day with Philanthropedia (at GuideStar). I will be leaving my position as Manager of Philanthropedia Research and return home to Hong Kong (where I grew up) to spend time with my parents and then work in the microfinance sector in China.

I have been with Philanthropedia since the idea of crowd-sourcing expert opinions to identify top nonprofits started. We were all still in school at that time and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience post-graduation. The process of getting incorporated, getting funding and backing from the Hewlett Foundation, proving our methodology, getting thousands of experts to participate in our research, and finally being acquired by the nonprofit data-provider, GuideStar, has truly been incredible. I am extremely grateful for all the experts who have shared their time and knowledge with me, the interns who have helped us out with our research, and my colleagues who have provided me with the strongest mentorship and support.

My replacement is Jasmine Marrow. She has a masters degree in Public Policy and have previously worked at Great Oakland Public Schools (an education advocacy nonprofit), and San Francisco Parks Trust (an urban greening nonprofit). I am confident she will continue with the high quality research Philanthropedia has delivered and continue to expand into more issue areas.

Thank you for everyone who I’ve interviewed, spoke, or worked with. It really has been a pleasure!

All the best,

Dawn

 


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