By: Hollis Conners
While partnering with the Freestore Foodbank of Cincinnati, students enrolled in the Economics of Poverty (ECON 390) class will be able to see and even experience challenges faced by organizations fighting poverty and utilize their skills to help solve those problems.
The Freestore Foodbank is a nonprofit organization that works to provide hunger relief. They distribute donations to those in need. They also work with soup kitchens, food pantries and various other organizations.
Along with Director of the Eigel Center Sean Rhiney, Assistant Professor of Economics Bree Lang was able to meet with the Freestore Foodbank. They identified three needs within the organization, which helped create three main projects for the students to complete.
“All three projects are based on a Freestore program called Cincinnati Cooks, which provides free cooking classes to qualified unemployed individuals,” Lang said.
“After the participants complete classes successfully, the Cincinnati Cooks help place them in jobs at local restaurants.” The first project students will work on will be measuring the economic impact of Cincinnati Cooks.
While looking at information regarding payroll, wages and reductions in public assistance, students will estimate the value the program provides to the community.
They will also make comparisons to other organizations in the metropolitan area. These findings will be presented to board members in order to show that Cincinnati Cooks is beneficial.
The efficiency of Cincinnati Cooks will also be tested. The second project includes looking at financial documents, researching how to measure cost efficiency and measuring the cost efficiency of Cincinnati Cooks. Students will also develop their own ideas on how to improve cost efficiency.
A sub-program of Cincinnati Cooks called the Kid’s Café will also be explored. The Kid’s Café provides free lunches at school to children of low-income households. Cincinnati Cooks is reimbursed for their meals as long as their meals are being used by one child. However, there is the danger of sending too many meals to a school and the chance resources can be wasted.
While looking at reimbursement information, students will determine the amount of lost resources, and provide possible solutions to reduce the amount of food wasted. They will also identify schools that could benefit from the Kid’s Café.
Students will also participate in a poverty simulation on campus, organized by the Freestore Foodbank. They will also have many opportunities to volunteer at the foodbank.
The projects were developed based on needs that the Freestore Foodbank has not been able to meet. “If the Freestore Foodbank can use its resources more efficiently, it will allow them to help even more families than what they already do,” Lang said.
“I hope students will be impacted by the opportunity to see a social problem from a different perspective. I’m sure each person will take something different from the experience, but I hope it will make the class more memorable and influence them in the future.”