Projects: Developing a Holistic Approach to Fighting Food Insecurity
Rachel Feldman ’23, Mia Long ’23, and Lydia Ellen Tonani ’23
Laura Roberts, director of the Worcester Community Project Center and an instructor in WPI’s Department of Integrative & Global Studies
According to data from the organization Feeding America, Massachusetts has seen a 59 percent increase in food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those with food sensitivities and allergies have a difficult time finding food from nonprofit and government food programs. Feldman, Long, and Tonani worked with Thrive Support & Advocacy, an organization that serves youths and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families across Central Massachusetts. Thrive was recently selected by the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services to manage the Worcester-area Family Support Center and work with more than 600 new families in Worcester and seven surrounding communities.
Create a food pantry that takes into account not only hunger and food insecurity in the area, but also the best possible diet for different populations—including those with food allergies and dietary restrictions—while also respecting ethnic and cultural cuisines.
The Interactive Qualifying Project team focused on finding sources and suppliers of foods that are safe for Thrive’s clientele. Thrive is partnering with WPI for the initial build-out of the space as well as ongoing support from WPI students to volunteer at the food pantry.
Tonani used demographic data to assess nutritional and accessibility needs in the area and how to best accommodate people’s cultural and ethnic backgrounds as well as any dietary needs and food sensitivities. Feldman learned how to measure and design a site to be ADA compliant within the sponsor’s budget. She reached out to other local food pantries about their operating procedures as well as supermarkets to ask about donations. Long researched sensory rooms and their importance to individuals living with developmental disabilities.
Projects included a blueprint for the space, budget, inventory plan, and identification of partnerships for volunteers and food sources.