Center for Nonprofit Governance

Nonprofit research


The Center for Nonprofit Governance within the Raj & Kamla Gupta Governance Institute is recognized as a premier research center of effective and responsible nonprofit governance. The research conducted among our world-renowned faculty is the core focus of CNG. Our research is published in top journals and informs and influences thought leaders in the nonprofit sector at a variety of high-level events throughout the year.

Current Research

How can data help with assessing food insecurity?

COVID-19 has brought a perfect storm of challenges to many nonprofits, but especially human service nonprofits such as food relief providers due to: (i) increased demand/greater food insecurity; (ii) strain on resources; (iii) greater difficulty in logistics and distribution of food. Nonprofits need better tools to assess need and then direct services to the hardest hit areas.

Teresa Harrison, PhD, and Neville Vakharia, PhD, professors at Drexel University, collected information on all known food distribution sites operating in the Summer of 2020 in the five-county Pennsylvania metropolitan region and key demographic data, particularly data related to food insecurity. We develop a more accurate index of food insecurity: # of residents in need per food distribution site to simultaneously account for need AND food relief providers in the local community.

Food distribution site type Philadelphia region. Copyright Theresa Harrison

Summer 2020 Food Relief Need and Identified Gaps

In the 5 county Philadelphia region, Harrison and Vakharia found:

  • 815 food distribution sites with 8 sites per zip code
    • Of the 8, there were on average 2 food cupboards, 3.5 for student distribution, 1 for senior distribution, and the remaining are a variety of neighborhood distribution sites.
  • 6,500 individuals per zip code living in SNAP households, which is a strong measure of food insecurity.
    • This implies there are 434 people in need for every food distribution site.
  • Urban and suburban settings tell a surprising story.
    • Need is around 2 times as high in urban areas but there are approximately 9 times more food providers/distribution sites in Philadelphia proper
    • This may suggest a shift to more provision in suburban areas, but more analysis would be needed.
  • The food insecurity heat density map shows considerable geographical variation: the areas of Coatesville and Northeast Philadelphia may need additional support relative to other areas.

Snap Recipient chart. Copyright Theresa Harrison

Next Phase of Project

We seek to build out this tool and its subsequent analysis with the following goals in mind:

  • Develop an online platform to ensure usability and accessibility for funders, executives, and boards and sharing of information between providers.
  • Refine our diagnostics to increase relevance and impact for identifying underserved areas.
  • Identify specific service corridors through a survey of food relief providers.
  • Secure funding to both support this phase of the project and adapt this platform to expand to other nonprofit service areas or other locales.

*1. Data was collected from multiple websites and confirmed through independent queries of government programs. The sample includes food cupboards and all known actively operating food distribution sites in the Philly region.