Graduate Students Teamed Up to Combat Food Insecurity and Hunger in the Pittsburgh Community; Discussions will continue in first-ever Catalyst for Impact Symposium
Graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh continued their annual tradition of serving as catalysts for change through the 2022 Super Analytics Challenge, hosted by the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.
Seven teams of five graduate students from across the University leveraged business skills to address the complex issues of food insecurity and hunger in the Pittsburgh region. The challenge, hosted this year in collaboration with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, formally ran from February 11 through February 18.
This year’s winning team, Team 2, of Pitt students included: Taylor Robinson of the School of Public Health; Rachael Agnello of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences; and William Hoffenkamp, Bhavya Mehta, and Yuyao Wu of the Katz Graduate School of Business.
Pitt Business relied on the expertise of an advisory committee consisting of representatives from corporate partners at Highmark Health, the Heinz Endowments, Accenture, the Pittsburgh Technology Council, SAP, Mastercard, and Giant Eagle. Executives from these organizations provided guidance on the student-written challenge case while also serving as executive coaches and subject matter experts to assist students.
“Our team at Pitt Business worked alongside the University, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, and our corporate partners to examine the complex factors that contribute to families experiencing food insecurity,” says Christopher Barlow, Director of Corporate Engagement and Career Services. “Food insecurity was selected as this year’s topic to continue the conversations that began last year around how students can harness their data analytics skills to drive societal impact.”
Innovative Solutions by Students
Student team solutions (see all seven final presentations on YouTube) ranged from recommending food boxes that provide recipes that educate recipients on meal preparation to power box provisions that address micronutrient deficiencies among pregnant people who use food banks. Other teams had recommendations for increasing volunteer engagement to bridge the gap for people experiencing food insecurity without access to vehicles, and working with local partners to increase the collection and distribution of food, among other topics.
“The goal was for all student teams to generate innovative solutions that Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank may implement,” says Andrew Hannah, Adjunct Professor and Executive-in-Residence for Pitt Business. “Solutions were judged not only on the depth of their analytical thinking but also the pragmatism of the solution proposed.”
The winning team’s solution focused on transportation hurdles for those in need of food. The team assessed the gap between where vulnerable populations are in the Greater Pittsburgh metro area and the areas the Food Bank currently serves. With that information, Team 2 created a map and assessed which specific zip codes were ripe for intervention and potential partnerships.
Members of Team 2 will be awarded fellowships funded by SAP to assist the Food Bank in implementing their solution. Additional outcomes from the challenge will be highlighted in a forthcoming impact report, to be published in April 2022.
Inaugural Catalyst for Impact Symposium: April 8
In addition to the fellowship, Pitt Business is pleased to announce the first Catalyst for Impact Symposium: Tackling Food Insecurity and Hunger through Ethical Analytics. The symposium, supported by a grant through Pitt’s Year of Data and Society, will bring together perspectives from community, government, non-profit, and research to share knowledge and best practices, and promote data literacy and social responsibility centered on the issue of food insecurity.
“The University of Pittsburgh and Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business are building community and fostering innovative research that engages analytics as a catalyst of impact to improve the world around us,” says Sara Moeller, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs and Executive Education. “We encourage the Pittsburgh community to join us to discuss how analytics provide the capacity to make better, more informed decisions, whether they involve business operations, human well-being, or the greater social good.”
The symposium is scheduled for Friday, April 8, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. EST, both in person at Pitt’s University Club and virtually. To register and get details of the presenters as they become available, visit the symposium webpage. The agenda will include a keynote speaker, concurrent sessions on the use of data analytics in studying societal challenges and, separately, on the societal impact of hunger, as well as poster presentations from the 2022 Super Analytics Challenge student teams.
Pitt Business is also committed to tangible impact and will be hosting a virtual food drive for the Food Bank from March 10 through April 10. If you would like to contribute, you may do so here: pittsburghfoodbank.org/katz. Pitt Business faculty and staff will volunteer at various Food Bank-hosted opportunities throughout the end of the spring semester as well.
To learn more about how you can get involved in a program like the Super Analytics Challenge here at Pitt Business, please contact our career management team at email@example.com.