IN THIS ISSUEEvaluation – An important and underutilized tool for food systems work – An Interview with Rachel Dannefer; West Side Campaign Against Hunger Digital Choice Online Ordering Pilot Evaluation – Executive Summary; Farms at NYCHA: Final Evaluation Report; GrowNYC Grainstand: Evaluation Brief / Suggested Readings & Resources / Policy Highlights / Previous Video Recording / Upcoming Events / Opportunities


Greetings CUNY Urban Food Policy Monitor readers and members of our food policy learning community!

Having long considered myself an evaluation evangelist, I’m thrilled to curate an issue focused on evaluation for food systems and food policy. Among public health and food and nutrition practitioners, the concept of evaluation has near universal approval but often limited execution or implementation. When program budgets are tight, financial support for evaluation and human capacity to execute evaluation work often becomes deprioritized. 

The federal government recommends that just 10% of the budget for programmatic grants for food and nutrition programs go towards evaluation. Further to this, a 2010 benchmarking study by the Evaluation Roundtable found that the industry norm among philanthropic funders for spending on evaluation is approximately 3.7%. I talk to practitioners all the time who are interested in incorporating evaluation into their work, but struggle with starting the process. It’s my hope that surfacing this data to the public consciousness will bring awareness to the potential for scaling evaluation for food systems and food policy efforts in NYC and beyond. 

In this month’s newsletter, we highlight good practice in evaluation and make links to its utility in food systems, food policy, and public health practice. In this issue we also celebrate Black History Month by centering materials that speak to the importance of advancing racial equity and social justice in the field of evaluation and public health, and which highlight the roles of Black communities in designing and driving food systems innovations which we as researchers and evaluators have been lucky to be involved in documenting as project partners. First, we interview Rachel Dannefer, a CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute Fellow and PhD student at CUNY, and experienced public health evaluator and researcher, about the ways in which evaluation intersects with and differs from academic research, the opportunity for evaluation data to further contribute to general scientific knowledge and public health practice, and the critical role for evaluation in furthering social justice and equity within the food system.  We share the executive summary from a recent evaluation report of the West Side Campaign Against Hunger Digital Choice Pilot. Well known for innovating the supermarket style client choice model of food distribution more than 20 years ago, WSCAH recently implemented a new type of client choice model which integrated technology for advanced ordering, delivery to a community pick up site, and modified client choice. The executive summary contains key findings from this evaluation and applications for scale. We also highlight a recent evaluation of GrowNYC’s Grainstand program, as well as the Farms at NYCHA Evaluation report, which documents a multi-year, multi-site intervention implemented through public and private partnership, to build six large scale urban farms on New York City Housing Authority property.  We share a short list of relevant peer reviewed publications documenting the benefits of evaluation, exploring its relationship to academic research, and demonstrating its intersection with action research efforts. 

About five years ago, with support from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, the Institute hosted a series of public training on implementing evaluation for food practitioners in NYC. We reshare the course materials from these sessions for readers interested in delving into the fundamentals of evaluation in the food system context. 

We’re always happy to talk about evaluation – please feel free to drop us a line:


Guest Editor of this Issue: Katy Tomaino Fraser, Director of Evaluation, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute

Production Coordinator: Rositsa T. Ilieva, Director of Policy, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute

Digital Content Specialist: Liv Collins, Communications Assistant, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute