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Posted May 15, 2011

Increased transparency at the Greater Chicago Food Depository

Ever wonder how food actually gets to those in need? Get ready for some big numbers.

Since its founding in 1978, the Greater Chicago Food Depository has helped feed the hungry and raise public awareness while creating and cultivating essential programs, services, and volunteer opportunities. With the support of more than 14,000 volunteers, 52,000 individual donors, 300 local corporations and foundations, and 350 food companies, GCFD provides food to 1 in 8 people in Cook County, one third of which are children. In the last year alone, the Food Depository’s thousands of volunteers donated almost 100,000 hours to help distribute 66 million pounds of food and 135,000 meals per day.

The positive impact of the Food Depository is undeniable, but the demand for emergency and supplemental food assistance increases every year. To meet the rising need, the Food Depository developed a five-year strategic plan to assess and analyze their role in the city, as well as set goals for the future (learn more about the 2010-2015 Plan).

The five Strategic Plan goals reflect a certain truth: our entire community must work together to meet the challenges head on and effect positive change. As Food Depository staff explained to members of the Jell team earlier this year, effective and creative uses of technology would be a key factor in achieving these goals. Encouraging the community, mobilizing the public, and broadcasting useful measurements of these efforts had to be accomplished efficiently, publicly, and with the widest impact possible.

When the Food Depository decided stakeholders needed to see impact data online — visualized in an appealing, engaging, and easy to understand format — they brought us on board as a partner. The project had challenges: defining key metrics, choosing the best visualizations for each, and integrating our technology seamlessly with their existing Content Management System, Convio.

We ended up designing and custom-coding a dynamic web visualization tool with a clean user interface, simple animations, and unobtrusive, interactive “bubble” popups for additional data or strategic goal information. The Quarterly Indicators app offers nine metric categories, organized by fiscal year and quarter with data presented cumulatively, and can be easily updated by GCFD staff. The entire project is also mobile-friendly and doesn’t require Flash.

The GCFD is a worthy organization that has a long and bright future ahead of it. We were very honored to be chosen for this project, one designed to increase transparency and reinforce community involvement in the Food Depository.

Learn more about how you can support the Greater Chicago Food Depository or follow GCFD on Twitter.