Food Insecurity in Middlesex County: a partnership with the Middlesex Coalition for Children by Kate Ellbogen ’23

The purpose of this project was to assess whether families in Middletown have been hungrier due to the start of the pandemic. We wanted qualitative stories to add value and description to the quantitative data already collected. We did this by holding focus groups with parents who filled out a survey earlier in the year. We had 20 participants total and received valuable information and feedback. We used content analysis to describe our findings. Our data will be presented to Middletown policy-makers on May 13th.

Sponsor: Jennifer Rose

Student reflection excerpt:

Before starting this project, I did not know about the available resources in Middletown and the overall need. I did not realize how strict cut offs are for qualifying for programs. I did not know that it is families who are just well-off enough to not qualify for programs that have been struggling the most during the pandemic. I learned about myself that I am a good listener, able to think of follow up questions in the moment better than I realized, and can carry myself well with new people. I am more confident now going into humanistic design projects.

If I could go back, I would reallocate time differently so there was more time to work on analyzing the data with my group rather than individually. I also would have run practice focus groups first to help figure out how to shorten the question list. I feel like less questions would have given more in depth answers.

I would love to work with the Middlesex Coalition again in the future. I want to pursue a career in policy creation for urban development, so this project will definitely stick with me.

Instructor reflection:

I am impressed by the thoughtfulness and courage you showed in your leadership of this project. You understood your positionality as researchers, and you embraced that rather than ignored it. I believe in the process of “learning by doing,” and it seems that’s exactly what you were able to achieve here. Not only did you learn objective information about hunger in Middletown, but you also absorbed personal stories and found a way to analyze and present them for the greater good. I hope you will be able to take the mindsets and methods that you learned through this Engaged Project and put it to use in other settings in the future.