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State Geographic Information Officer describes importance of SAVI to Central Indiana

By Jim Sparks, Indiana Geographic Information Officer

In October 2007, I was appointed as Indiana’s first Geographic Information Officer with a statutory mission to facilitate the development, maintenance, and distribution of comprehensive statewide geographic data.  State statute also assigns two dozen or so responsibilities to the GIO which fall into five baskets: 1) coordinate GIS effort in Indiana with all levels of government, academia, and the private sector; 2) locate and integrate critical geospatial data around the state; 3) figure out how to create data sets that are needed but do not exist; 4) make sure that the data is widely and conveniently available; and 5) serve as the Geographic Information Officer for state government agencies.

Given this legislative directive, and understanding that SAVI is the nation’s largest spatially-enabled system of its type, it therefore makes perfect sense for the GIO to serve on SAVI’s board.  Beginning in 2008 as a board member, and more recently as vice chair, I help guide the efforts of the board and facilitate meetings in the absence of the chair.

As a GIS professional, I greatly appreciate what SAVI offers to its users.  The data are robust (there’s information about 2,000+ plus communities in Central Indiana) and have been collected and processed to work well in the creation of custom maps, graphs, and charts.  In addition, SAVI provides on-line tools to help me analyze the data in different ways, and the SAVI team is always available to provide additional training or even just answer a quick question if I need assistance.

I recently took a call from someone in the economic development sector who was looking for profiles for some Central Indiana neighborhoods.  While we were on the phone and in front of our computers, I was able to guide him to SAVI’s online tools to create several custom maps that contained exactly the information that he needed.

Finding and visualizing good data is a big win for the user and also for Indiana!  That makes SAVI an important resource for Central Indiana and is why the website link is in my favorites list.


A Model to Mitigate Hunger

By Sharon Kandris, SAVI Director

It’s clear that hunger and food insecurity are growing problems in Central Indiana.  We’ve recently partnered with two Central Indiana organizations (Northside Mission Ministry of Second Presbyterian Church and United Way of Central Indiana) to identify the gaps among existing resources as a starting point to developing a solution in Washington Township and Hancock County. Emerging out of a strategic planning process with Northside Mission Ministries, we’ve begun to develop a Community Network Model that utilizes collective impact to mitigate hunger.

In both communities, we identified that those in need of food often have many other needs : transportation, housing, employment, medical help, better nutrition, and fresh foods, to name a few.  And in both initiatives, the organizations involved have resolved to do something to address the root causes of hunger.

Getting Out of Poverty

They want to help people out of the circumstances that are causing them to rely on local food support.  They want them to be self-sufficient.  In some instances, addressing the emergency needs of food, housing assistance, and clothing are all that’s needed to get a family past a time of hardship.  In many instances, however, it will take much more than that.  It will take better preparation for the workforce, getting and keeping good jobs, and increasing family stability though such things as better life skills and financial literacy.

The diagram below depicts the foundation and pillars of self-sufficiency – the framework that that Community Network Model uses.


Community Network Model

The Community Network Model brings together local organizations and service providers from many sectors to work collectively to form a community-wide solution to the problem.

Indy Hunger Network is making significant strides in developing a food network consisting of large food pantry partners that cover all of Marion County (approximately one in each township and now one in Hancock County).  IHN should be applauded for its tremendous accomplishments in such a short time.

But this macro-level network is not enough – local organizations need to establish networks at the micro level and dig even deeper.  The Community Network Model looks within a community for the existing supports to collaborate with intentionality about addressing the food resource gaps that exist – gaps in availability, gaps in accessibility, and geographic gaps.  And it goes beyond food to address the underlying causes of hunger.  In this deeper model, food is one node of a bigger network.

On the food “node,” food providers coordinate to address the gaps.  For example, they make sure there are food options available at all times – days, evenings, weekdays, and weekends.  Other (non-food provider) organizations contribute their assets to the cause as well – whether it’s a local church providing volunteers at the pantries or a nonprofit offering its van to transport people to and from a pantry to address the issue of accessibility.

Other nodes of the network focus on education, job training, health, and other issues that address the root causes of hunger.

One organization takes the responsibility of convener or coordinator, making sure that the coordination happens within each node and that all of these nodes work together to move individuals toward self-sufficiency and out of poverty and times of hardship.  Individuals with a food need, for example, will be shepherded to organizations in the relevant nodes of the network to get the supports they need in a coordinated fashion, as they are willing.

The following graphic illustrates the network model with four of the nodes (education, health, food, and rent assistance) to demonstrate the concept, but the full network would include additional nodes such as family stability and employment.


An important early step in building a successful network model is conducting an asset inventory to see what skills, resources, and capacities exist within organizations that are interested in helping address the problem.  Then work together to build this network of resources.  It will take time, but the time to start is now.

The Keys to Bigger Impact

  1. Use data to inform your understanding of the situation and guide your process for developing solutions.
  2. Consider all of the assets within your community, not just the food providers, as part of the solution.
  3. Work together. It’s the power of collective impact that allows you to make a bigger difference by working intentionally toward the same goal instead of working in silos.
  4. Think creatively. Don’t let barriers, including funding, stop you.

With some coordination and cooperation, local organizations can make a bigger impact on addressing hunger in our community.

Addressing Hunger in Central Indiana: Gaps and Opportunities

By Sharon Kandris, SAVI Director

As you’re probably aware from recent news reports, Feeding America recently released its annual Map the Meal Gap report, with statistics on the state of hunger across the nation. According to its report, food insecurity (not always knowing where your next meal will come from) is affecting 1 out of every 6 people in the Indy MSA – that’s more than 266,000 people.

What you may NOT know is that more than one-third (35%) of those 266,000 food insecure are not eligible for federal food assistance such as SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; WIC – the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant, and Children; and free and reduced school breakfast and lunch.

When you look at this statistic for the suburbs, it is even more staggering.  These are people making too much money to qualify for federal support but not enough to cover unexpected expenses, which is creating times of hardship – and times of hunger.  The face of hunger is changing; it is affecting people we wouldn’t expect – our neighbors, the nicely-dressed students at our kids’ school – former middle class.  The suburbs are particularly affected with this newly poor population.


The following chart illustrates how eight Central Indiana communities compare in terms of the percentage of the food insecure that are not eligible for federal food assistance.


This makes the local resources especially important.  It’s the ONLY support they have.

There are many food providers doing a lot of great work: food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, schools, CICOA, Meals on Wheels, Gleaner’s Back Sack program, and Summer Servings, just to name a few.

But, there are gaps. So, HOW CAN THEY DO MORE to make sure that everyone who needs it has access to food?

I’ve had the privilege of working with two groups locally that are trying to answer this very question.

1. The Northside Mission Ministry of Second Presbyterian Church, a large congregation in Washington Township, currently offers a food pantry and rent and utility assistance to residents in the township, but it wants to do even more to address hunger.

2. United Way of Central Indiana and Hancock County Regional Hospital just hosted the Hancock County Hunger Summit II where about 35 individuals representing 20 organizations in the county working to address hunger came together to talk about the current state of hunger and develop solutions to fill the gaps.

In both cases, we conducted needs assessments using SAVI to inform the partners about the state of hunger and to identify WHO is being served WHERE, WHEN, and by which organizations. The assessment also identified existing gaps.  Here are the common findings:

1. There are gaps in AVAILABILITY – It is difficult for the working poor to access food resources because of the limited hours they are available.  Few are open in the evenings and even fewer on the weekend.  The map below shows the limited evening availability of food pantries in Washington Township, with the highlighted areas being those in greatest need of food resources.


2. There are gaps in ACCESSIBILITY– Many of the resources are not accessible to those without reliable transportation.  Note that in the map below, a majority of the Hancock County food providers are clustered in the central and northwestern part of the county.  With limited public transportation, this makes it difficult for many people outside of these areas to access the food.

gaps 2

3. There are many underutilized food programs – local food providers report that they have the capacity to serve more. But there also are many people who qualify for federal food programs that are not taking advantage of them.


4. There is a lack of awareness – of the existing food resources in the community and of  2-1-1 (Connect2Help, an information referral service); there also is a great lack  of awareness of the hunger right in our midst.


5. There are many other needs – Many people coming to the food pantries, soup kitchens, etc. have other needs: transportation, housing, employment, medical help, better nutrition, and fresh foods.

6. There is a lack of coordination between resources– Most of the food providers focus on their mission and work independently.

7. And there are a number of resources in addition to food providers that want to be a part of the solution.

By coordinating their efforts, providers can do more to strategically address the needs in their community through good planning and good data.

Our recent partnership in Washington Township provided an opportunity to develop a network model that utilizes collective impact to mitigate hunger in Central Indiana, and it’s catching on.


Worst social crisis in the country?

By Jay Colbert, GIS Project Manager, The Polis Center


One in three children in America grow up without a father in the home.

Seventy-three percent of Black children in the U.S. are born to single parents.

Only 16% of these single parents are men.

These troubling statistics shed light on the fact that the absence of a father or father-figure has far reaching social and cultural impacts. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), an organization dedicated to educating and engaging fathers, this issue is the worst social crisis in the country.

The organization cites data on the effects of father impacts on a number of social issues including poverty, maternal and child health, incarceration, crime, child abuse, education, health, and more. Here are a few of the more startling statistics.

  • Children in homes without fathers are almost four times more likely to live in poverty. Forty-four percent of children in single-mother families live in poverty compared to only 12% of children in married-couple families.
  • Obese children are more likely to live in homes without fathers than are non-obese.
  • Regardless of income level, children in father-absent homes have significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Children who never had a father in the household have the greatest chances of incarceration.

Absent-father households are especially pervasive in the African American community. In late 2012, the Indiana Black Expo released its State of Our Black Youth report, which revealed that 58% of Black families with children in the state are headed by single moms.

“The number of parents in the household, as well as the relationship between the parents, are strongly linked to a child’s well-being. Two married, biological parents with low conflict levels are more likely to provide a home environment that contributes to a child’s well-being. Adolescents who live with two parents are more likely to have parents who know the child’s whereabouts after school. Parental monitoring includes knowing children’s whereabouts after school, as well as knowing children’s friends and activities. These behaviors, when combined with parental support, have been shown to be positively related to higher adolescent self-esteem, higher GPAs in school, and greater academic success.” (State of Our Black Youth Report, 2012)

In Indiana, the highest concentrations of single-mother households are Lake and Marion counties. The map below highlights that Warren Township, Marion County has highest rate of total households headed by single mothers at 12.6%.

2010 Single Female Householder Families with Own Children Under Age 18

2010 Single Female Householder Families with Own Children Under Age 18

There is some hope for the future, though. Roland Warren, NFI president, said in a CNN interview that we are starting to see some small improvement in the number of children growing up in father-absent homes. Through his good work with the NFI, and through the efforts of other organizations (listed below), we hope that the trend continues to improve.

Watch Roland Warren’s CNN interview!

Helpful resources for single parents:

National Fatherhood Initiative
Volunteers of America Indiana (also check out the Healing Families Program)
Indiana Black Expo, Inc.
Indiana Department of Child Services

Child Hunger: A Global Problem; A Local Solution

By Michelle Jones, GIS Analyst, The Polis Center

Each holiday season (November and December), we hear about local programs such as Gleaner’s Food Bank, Second Helpings, and Midwest Food Bank among others that provide food for those in need. But what about the other ten months of the year? Just because these food donation organizations aren’t as prevalent in the news from January through October doesn’t mean that they’re not working just as hard. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the people in need of their services require less assistance.

In fact, you could argue that during the summer months, families actually require MORE assistance, especially for children. According to Indy Hunger Network, a recent Feeding America report reveals that 17.4% of all Marion County residents are food insecure …even more shocking? This statistic includes 22.5 percent of the county’s children.

If you consider Marion County alone, we found that of the 28,430 families in poverty, 24,040 (85%!!) have children under age 18 (Source: SAVI, American Community Survey). Pair this with the fact that 97% of the schools in the IPS district have more than 50% students eligible for free or reduced lunch, with 37% of these schools having 90% or more eligible (Source: Indiana Department of Education). Now, you can understand the magnitude of the issue of hunger.

Recognizing this need, Summer Servings, a USDA-affiliated organization, offers meals at no cost during the summer to eligible children in low-income areas in Marion County. It serves two meals per day per child at various recreational and community sites. The goal of Summer Servings is to continue to offer children nutritional options while school is out of session.

“So many of our children are dependent on school lunches in order to feed themselves so this summer program with the Summer [Servings] is just going to be tremendous,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, Marion County Health Director.  Read the WISH TV article.

For more information about the program, visit its website at Additionally, you can dial 2-1-1 for site locations. Connect2Help 2-1-1 will assist you with finding the services to meet your needs.

The following map highlights the locations of food pantries in Central Indiana. Use SAVI to find the one closest to you, and contact them to learn how you can be part of the solution in fighting hunger.

Source: SAVI Community information System and Connect 2 Help

Source: SAVI Community information System and Connect 2 Help


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