CHS Professor’s Grant to Elucidate Impact of El Paso Food Pantry Services
Published April 25, 2022
By Darlene Muguiro
UTEP College of Health Sciences
Several months shy of his one-year work anniversary at the UTEP College of Health Sciences, Dr. Jason Mallonee, assistant professor of Social Work, has received funding from Oak Ridge Associated Universities under an agreement with the National Library of Medicine. Mallonee has been funded through the end of this year to complete an outcomes evaluation of participants in the Fresh Start program at El Paso’s Kelly Center for Hunger Relief (Kelly Center).
The Kelly Center began in 1999 as a food pantry, but has since expanded its services as administrators began recognizing that participants needed more than just a helping hand during times of need. Fresh Start uses a “More Than Food” framework targeting the root causes of food insecurity, such as unemployment or low income, unaffordable housing, chronic health issues, and discrimination. Fresh Start, which is funded through the Paso Del Norte Health Foundation’s HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) initiative, is a nine-month program in which participants receive food boxes and also participate in work readiness and technology courses as well as classes in healthy living. The program partners with Jardin de Milagro to provide participants with fresh fruits and vegetables.
In the last nine months, 232 individuals have participated in Fresh Start. Although the program has continued to expand at the Kelly Center since 2015, previous analysis of data related to outcomes of program graduates has been limited to the initial few years of the program. Mallonee and Kelly Center staff will conduct an outcomes evaluation on measures related to self-sufficiency, pulled from secondary data from surveys collected beginning in 2020 through the end of June 2022. The surveys are completed by participants upon entry into Fresh Start, and again at the four- and nine-month mark.
Following the survey data analysis, the team will conduct a second phase of research – one-on-one interviews with 25-30 program graduates. The questions are designed to provoke frank discussion among the graduates about maintaining gains in self-sufficiency after the program, specifically, identification of factors that helped individuals maintain gains as well as the challenges faced by individuals who were unable to maintain gains. While Mallonee’s position as Kelly Center board vice-president does not allow him to actually conduct the interviews with program graduates, a research team comprised of both UTEP students and Kelly Center staff will help collect and decipher the data.
In the final stage of the project, Mallonee and the team will create a tri-fold brochure including their findings, along with recommendations for individuals for how to effectively maintain self-sufficiency related gains. The brochure will also include a list of resources from the National Library of Medicine. The information will be shared with people coming into the Center’s Fresh Start program as well as with members of the broader community.
Mallonee says that in looking at preliminary data from Kelly Center surveys, he realized he had an obligation to do something and continue to advocate for programs like the Kelly Center. The outcomes evaluation is meant to increase awareness about food insecurity and its root factors, and to bolster support for programming like that offered at the Center. Despite last year’s decreases in COVID-19 infections in El Paso, data from the Kelly Center alone continues to suggest great need in the city for support for individuals living with food insecurity – 27,597 unique individuals were served in 2021.
For more information about the Kelly Center and Fresh Start program, please visit: https://www.kmfp.org/