Understanding site location factors of food pantries and free meal programs in the Des Moines, IA metro
Food pantries and free meal programs provide a critical service to low-income individuals and families living in the Des Moines MPA given the high rates of poverty and food insecurity. The geographic proximity of food assistance programs for low-income individuals and families provides a valuable indicator for understanding the potential success of these services given their limited means and options for transportation. First, this research sought to develop an organizational profile for each organization in an attempt to understand organizational influences on the location selection processes and criteria in practice. Second, this research sought to evaluate the potential geographic accessibility of these services for low-income individuals and families living in the Des Moines MPA by evaluating their geographic proximity using GIS to specific demographic data, the public transportation system, and other supplemental services. The interview process found that program organizers underwent an intentional location selection process utilizing criteria and that the type of organization (religious, nongovernmental or governmental) appears to play a role in the location selection criteria utilized in the decision-making process. The GIS analysis found the majority of programs are geographically accessible due to their close geographic proximity to public transportation stops, supplemental services, census tracts with high percentages of poverty, and census tracts with high percentages of racial diversity among residents. In sum, while food assistance programs appear to vary in their location selection decision-making processes, in practice, they tend to find and select locations that effectively serve low-income individuals and families living in the Des Moines MPA.