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DENTON (UNT), Texas — A four-year collaboration between a University of North Texas assistant professor and Catholic Charities Fort Worth results in a more efficient way to connect those in need with food pantry locations in Tarrant County.
Ronald Schumann, a UNT emergency management and disaster science professor, started working with CCFW in 2016 and incorporated his work with the nonprofit into his Social Vulnerability in Disasters class.
In previous semesters, Schumann offered his students the option of helping CCFW gather information about preparedness in communities affected by poverty, especially those whose members have limited English proficiency.
“Our goal is to develop societal resilience to disasters,” he said. “Students conducted personal interviews with residents in at-risk neighborhoods to understand the community’s awareness of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery resources available through local social service organizations like CCFW.”
When COVID-19 hit and CCFW needed to provide a resource guide for basic necessities like food, the team at CCFW reached out to ask Schumann and his students for help.
“We really needed a tool that could help case managers easily and efficiently find food within a mile of their client's neighborhood,” said Francine Speer, manager of Fort Worth Future Fund and Specialist Services. “Jay Semple, manager of CCFW disaster response, and I knew that through UNT, Dr. Schumann had access to the GIS mapping tools and students who might be able to help us develop a map that provided the location of all available food resources.”
Schumann reached out to former and current students in his Social Vulnerability in Disasters class for ideas. Josh Covas, who recently graduated in Spring 2020 with a degree in geography, was quick to volunteer. He and Schumann used GIS software to build a single map listing all food pantries and meal assistance locations in Tarrant County. The map allows case workers for CCFW to easily access information about the location of food pantries, hours, target audiences (including school meals or children’s food pantries) contact information and other important details in a single source.
“When presented with the opportunity, I was thrilled to have the capability of creating the map with what I learned at UNT. Our partnership with Catholic Charities is helping relieve food insecurity during the pandemic,” Covas said. “I am thrilled for the opportunity to apply my passion for map-making to support the well-being of others.”
Currently the resource map is only available for CCFW caseworkers, but one of the goals for Schumann and CCFW is to make the map available for the public in the future.
About Catholic Charities Fort Worth
Catholic Charities Fort Worth (CCFW) is a learning-focused nonprofit with a belief that ending poverty is possible. CCFW’s diverse services, poverty solutions, and income-generating social enterprises help tens of thousands in our 28-county diocese each year, most of whom are the working poor. CCFW strategically challenges the way poverty is addressed nationwide by scrupulously testing our own case management methods through research partnerships, exporting our known-solutions to other non-profits, and serving as a resource for what works on Capitol Hill. For more information, please visit catholiccharitiesfortworth.org.