December 28, 2010

Quality: Improved

Bread for the City’s food pantries have recently changed the way we give out food, switching from pre-packaging grocery bags to a Client Choice model. It can be difficult to change the ways we've been working for decades, but we're being careful to use quality improvement (Q.I.) tactics -- carefully measuring discrete changes to our system, one by one. The positive results are happening quickly.

Once we'd already achieved our desired cycle time (i.e. the length of an average client visit into the pantry) in the Client Choice model, we turned our attention to another Quality Improvement measure: increasing the amount of fresh veggies that our clients choose to take home.

Fresh vegetables are essential to good health; and since our nutrition initiative began 2 years ago, Bread for the City has drastically increased our produce distribution. But we don’t just want to give away more produce; we want our clients to want more produce. And we think that Client Choice provides a great opportunity to educate about the health benefits of fresh produce -- and also a great metric by which to gauge our progress.

Our food pantry offers a variety of vegetable options, both canned and fresh. So we simply kept track of the ratio of fresh vs. canned veggies that clients chose to take home. During our first sample, 41% of veggies taken home were fresh. That’s not bad (keep in mind many elderly and disable patients require the ease of cans, and large families often opt for cans because they take up less space in bags)...but we thought we could do better.

So the following week, we tested two tweaks, in search of quality improvement:

1) We moved the produce to eye level and added one extra produce display shelf.

2) We installed signs with easy to read produce names and nutrition facts (Ex: "Eating greens lowers cholesterol and helps your heart!").

These simple changes packed an impressive punch. In our second sample, we observed a 61% take home rate for fresh veggies -- that's a 20% spike from our first sample!

We're going to continue to experiment with the layout and procedure in our food pantries in the new year. And of course we're always eager to hear your ideas. All interested parties are encouraged to come take a tour, see how it works, volunteer a bit, and let us know *your* ideas.

1 comment:

blonderthanyou said...

I love the changes youre implementing! I think its gonna be great!
sometimes when i run across veggies/produce that im not really familiar with ...say kale or scallions etc...recipe suggestions /cooking instructions are super helpful...and appreciated..
best wishes for the new year!