Strengthening the charitable food system in Northwest Arkansas

Scenario: Regional foundation wants rigorous examination of food insecurity and the charitable food system in Northwest Arkansas to inform and drive planning and collaboration among stakeholders concerned about food security within the two-county region.


  1. Better understand the state of food insecurity in Northwest Arkansas.
  2. Identify barriers to and gaps within the charitable food network.
  3. Present findings in ways that can help drive action and advocacy in the local community.

What CGR Delivered

  • Data collection and analysis of national and local demographic and socioeconomic data on food insecurity and related indicators.
  • Inventory and survey of local charitable food providers and their services.
  • Analysis of qualitative data collected through focus groups with charitable food providers and clients.
  • Online interactive map displaying the location and characteristics of food resources in the context of geographic and socioeconomic data.
  • Written report.
  • In-person presentation and discussion of report findings and online map to key community stakeholders.

The report can be found here and the interactive map can be found here.

Result and Impact

Increased awareness of challenges within Northwest Arkansas’ charitable food network including the capacity to provide fresh food on a regular basis, accessing charitable food resources during non-work hours, and transportation to resources, particularly in rural areas. The study also illustrated the nature of the direct food provision system which is comprised of primarily small organizations with operating budgets of less than $1 million that rely heavily on volunteers.  Providers cited the need for increased refrigeration and storage capacity as well as additional staff as resources needed to expand their services.  The project also identified community-generated ideas for addressing food insecurity and strengthening the charitable food network in Northwest Arkansas such as expanded and coordinated service hours, and the need to identify strategic distribution sites. The report and interactive map are serving as an important tool and catalyst to jumpstart and inform planning, collaboration and investments among local stakeholders including civic leaders, funders and providers concerned about addressing the long term food security needs in the community.