Ask 100% of the neighbors; get at least 50% participation.
Undergraduate Research Day at Concord University, Athens, West Virginia where our One Can A Week program was implemented and the results studied by a political science class. Left: Crystal Jones, Kurtis White, Jessica Fowler, Anthony Heltzel, Tabatha Whited (in the back), Emily Fridenmaker and Ivan Deyanov. Not pictured: Brooke Bailey, Alex Collins and instructor Jim White).
What started as a political science class assignment for Emily Fridenmaker at Concord University turned out to confirm that One Can A Week not only feeds lots of needy folks, it also builds a sense of community at the same time. The first person to recognize this phenomenon was Brett Weisel at FeedingAmerica.org. He called just to give me that incite in 2009. My goal was to collect food for needy families in Tucson but learning about the other ramifications of the program encouraged me even more.
Based on Emily’s findings, we know for sure that organizing One Can A Week as designed, generates similar results in other neighborhoods around the country. (I use the phrase “as designed” to mean personal contact with each and every neighbor and then weekly contact with each participant. Others have tried variations of the program such as having neighbors drop off food but those modifications are not sustainable. When participants are required to do more than just place a can or two on their porches each Sunday they loose interest in the program.)
Last Wednesday I received an email from Emily that included three terrific photos and the following:
“I just wanted to update you on our project as we are wrapping it up. We presented the program at our Undergraduate Research Day last week…
“We have collected almost 900 pounds of food (we have 2 weeks before graduation, and I’m predicting that we will hit 1000 before we are done!) and our Lions’ Club is all set to take over the project and keep the program going indefinitely.”
I asked Emily to send me an Executive Summary of her findings so when I did not hear back from her I took that to mean, “Enlarge the photos and read the boards, dummy.”
Below is Emily’s and her team’s method and assessment of their project.
|Close-up of the Results section in the Concord University student’s display.|
A list of participants from the Athens neighborhood was compiled. Each household was called every Saturday as a reminder. The neighborhood was split into three separate routes, and every Sunday two people collected the food from the porches along their assigned route. Flyers were left at each house notifying the participant that the food had been picked up. The food was weighed and the amounts were recorded. All food was then taken to the Bluefield Union Mission in Bluefield, WV.“Figure 1 – Food was collected and weighed each week. The amount collected stabilized around 140 pounds of food. The number of households participating was also recorded each week. This number varies greatly week to week and is largely influenced by weather and holidays.”
(NOTE: We experience no difference in amounts collected in the Miles neighborhood during bad weather or on holidays. And most folks participate week after week. These two variations between cities may be due to our very consistent pickup schedule.)
|A photo of the gigantic three-panel display created by thestudent poly-sci team at Concord University.|
“Figure 2 – The participation rate has dropped to approximately 50% of the initial participants. The Athens community has participated at a rate of 15% – 20%.
“Figure 3 – While some households did not participate at all after agreeing to be placed on our contact list, most participate 3, 4 and 5 our of 5 weeks.”
(NOTE: With respect to our 50% participation, we have had a few opt out but we replaced many as new neighbors move into the Miles neighborhood.)
“Figure 4 – Few households donate only one can per week. The pounds per household average was consistent at 2.5 -3 pounds.”
(NOTE: A majority of participants in the Miles neighborhood also donate more than one food item per week.)
A two-tailed t-test showed that the difference in giving between Tucson, Arizona and Athens, West Virginia is not statistically significant.”
(NOTE: A two-tailed t-test is a statistical tool based on either end of a bell curve. If you want to read something where you understand the meaning of every word written but you have no idea of what they speak, click on the link above.)
“Because of this, we accepted the null hypothesis and concluded that there is no difference between One Can A Week donation is Athens, West Virginia and in Tucson, Arizona. This similarity is likely due to the similarities in the two neighborhoods, specifically the population sizes, median incomes and ages and the fact that they are both university towns.”
What I found thrilling with Emily’s program was that many participants gave more than one can a week (Figure 4), there was consistent participation (Figure 4) and the participation rate was approximately 50% (Figure 2). We in the Miles neighborhood experience the same rate which is high for any community project.
The only suggestion I would make to Emily and any others who may want to initiate a One Can A Week program is don’t call because that’s a bit irritating. Friends, family and sales people call on the phone. Guess which one they consider you?
Just knock on the door each week and build a relationship. That is so much better.
Big “Sorry We Missed You” Week
Lots of folks took to the street, the pools and the sunshine Sunday. And those who were home, lost track of time and forgot to put their donation out. No matter, we still collected 24 lbs. under our average and with so many Sorry cards hanging on the front door, next Sunday is going to be nothing short of great. Guilt is a wonderful thing, sometimes.
We collected a total of 144 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $7.00 in cash.
See you Sunday,