MPA students visit the SE Ohio Foodbank

Planning Meals for the Future

Voinovich School Partners With SE Ohio Foodbank

Hannah Ticoras
April 11, 2014

With some help from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, the Southeastern Ohio Foodbank and Kitchen is implementing a strategic plan that puts more emphasis on the kitchen part of its name.

Located in Logan, the food bank maintains a food collection, storage, packaging, and distribution facility that serves food pantries in Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Lawrence, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Vinton and Washington counties. The same building houses a state-of-the art kitchen, where volunteers prepare over 1,200 meals a day for Meals on Wheels and summer lunch programs for schoolchildren, among other programs. The food bank is a program of the Hocking, Athens, and Perry Community Action (HAPCAP), but serves individuals in those other counties as well.

Active for almost 30 years, the food bank recently assessed their progress so far, and decided to ask the Voinovich School to help them with some strategic planning. The effort was encouraged and supported by the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation of Nelsonville, the Athens Foundation, and the Sisters of St. Joseph Charitable Fund.

Lesli Johnson, assistant professor in the Voinovich School and head of the Planning, Evaluation, Education and Research team that provides consulting services to regional organizations explained that the food bank approached the Voinovich School with a two-fold problem. The facility was needed more room for storage, but its industrial kitchen was underused. The food bank wanted to solve the issue of lack of storage while expanding use of the kitchen.

Because of the unique space that non-profit organizations occupy in regards to funding, the Voinovich School uses a new model called the canvas. The canvas model is a business model primarily used on for-profit companies, something that is outside of Johnson’s scope. Therefore, Johnson worked alongside John Glazer, a staff member from the entrepreneurial sector of the Voinovich School, primarily working with TechGROWTH Ohio. With Johnson’s knowledge of evaluating non-profits and Glazer’s knowledge of organizing businesses – the strategic planning took hold.

“The canvas model of business planning helps the organization discover something new, rather than systematizing something they already knew," Glazer said. “This method focuses on identification, creation and determination of value, laid out on one large page, instead of hidden beneath pages of expository language.”

The one large page is the key: the Voinovich School evaluation team helped the food bank staff visualize the structure of their organization by laying it out in rows and columns in one large chart.

The canvas method identifies partners, customers and resources. Highlighting these three audiences helped the food bank to realize that their customers are the people in need of food, not the food pantries that receive boxes of surplus food. This helped them to redefine goals to suit the individuals, rather than just the food pantries, which are their partners in the larger goal of providing food to people in need.

After this identification, the food bank began to think of programs that could help to expand their storage capacity. They decided that making a profit on the kitchen would be the best way to gain more revenue for future expansions of the food storage facility, so they now rent the kitchen out and have catering services.

Tracy Galway, the director of the SE Ohio Foodbank and Kitchen, worked with the Voinovich School to create the strategic plan. “We had been doing some catering services prior to our partnership [with the Voinovich School] and there were a few rentals years ago,” Galway said. But the new plan stresses these two things significantly, in the hopes that they lead to more rentals and catering events in the future.

“We are still in some final stages of planning, so it isn’t finalized yet,” Galway says. But the canvas model created a plan of action, allowing the food bank to better serve individuals in need.