Syracuse Hunger Project
In 2003, the Samaritan Center of Syracuse, NY noticed an issue with food assistance programs in the city. All around Syracuse, food pantries were reporting an increase in demand for supplies. As a result, hunger organizations worked to handle problems in their area of the city but could not work together to solve the bigger hunger issue. This led Dale Johnson, former director of the Samaritan Center, to hold meetings for service providers to try to understand what was happening with hunger in different parts of the city. He realized that if all of the local providers collaborated, eventually they could understand and address the hunger trends across the city. He requested the assistance of the Syracuse University Geography department to compile the hunger data collected by each organization and map what was found, effectively starting the Syracuse Hunger Project.
Using the collected data and GIS, students in Professor Jane Read’s introductory GIS class were able to map trends all across the city, along with important hunger resources (food pantries, soup kitchens, etc.). Community partners and professors working on the project used these maps to create reports and analyses, which were later presented to city officials and the community at large. The project’s results were so significant, it was recommended that Syracuse University create a permanent position for GIS analysis of relevant issues in the community. This would lead to the foundation of both Syracuse Community Geography and Syracuse Grows.