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Determining which Open Food Banks are in High Elderly-Populated and High Poverty Areas

10 - Fireball
10 - Fireball



Overview of Use Case

The San Francisco and Marin County Food Bank wanted to examine how many of their open food banks are in high elderly populated and high poverty areas within the city of San Francisco. The customer wanted a custom solution accomplished in Alteryx using US Business Insights data.  We were able to create a comprehensive workflow blending customer food bank location data with a combination of Experian and US Census demographic data to a series of maps detailing the findings.


Describe the business challenge or problem you needed to solve

Food Banks play a critical role in your communities by addressing a problem called food security. This term is defined by the availability of food and one’s access to it. A household is considered food secure when its members do not live in hunger or worry about starvation. By defining the food secure areas, food banks can focus on the food insecure areas. Food banks analyze which demographic factors contribute to overall picture of food insecurity in a community, city, and/or state level. Those demographics can include low income, race, age of households, and/or number of vehicles in a household.


Once those areas defined, food pantries can be set up to address the food insecurities. Pantries are locations in San Francisco County and Marin County where we send food to be distributed into the community. They are typically churches, schools, non-profit organizations, etc. Unfortunately, since the COVID-19 pandemic SF Marin County Food Bank has lost over 40% of their pantry network as a result volunteers and coordinators of pantries contracting COVID-19, volunteers running the pantries being told to shelter in place, and other volunteers reluctant to run a pantry at this time.


In response to the pantry closures, SF Marin Food Bank wanted to observe the location of their current open pantries in respect to high elderly populated and high poverty areas. This would provide a visual representation of which areas are in bigger need by pop-up pantries or a grocery delivery story.  


Describe your working solution

We wanted to create spatial points (the food bank locations and its trade area that it represents) and spatial polygons (the census tract areas) and overlay them on the same map. The trade area represents the walking distance from that food bank. We chose .25 miles since we wanted to focus on the San Francisco for this example. We did not want to join these two separate entities because we wanted to display all the food banks in respect to each of the two demographics we chose to focus on: high elderly population and high poverty. This would allow the SF Marin Food Bank to find areas that could be addressed by a pop-up pantry or home-delivered groceries.


The finished product is the PDF report that can be distributed by the customer. After the spatial objects, we designed a complete report to be created from the three containers on the right-hand portion of the workflow. In the first container, we created a cover page including a header with logo and text area detailing the maps that the report would contain. The second and third containers contained maps of the food bank locations in conjunction with the high elderly populations and high poverty areas, respectively.




For each map, we created two layers: one for the spatial points and trade area and one for the polygon represented by the census tract. We also created a custom legend for each map by using the Legend Splitter tool. In total there is a title, a multi-layered map, and custom legend for each map.


Lastly, we pull the cover page and the two maps objects together into a final PDF document using Join Multiple and Layout tools. We wanted to show that Alteryx can produce very solid and sleek business reports from its workflows.




Describe the benefits you have achieved

Alteryx increases productivity and delivers accuracy. There are some main benefits from using the platform:

  • Saving Time: The use of the US Business Insights data package has made the comparison of any demographic data with food bank location seamless. This makes it easy on the developer to create a flexible solution to a compare a multitude of topics.
  • Saving Money: This analysis illustrated that there was an abundance of food banks concentrated a several sections of San Francisco and there were some areas - up food banks can be extremely useful to present food to areas that need rather than having it sit somewhere where it is not. This could allow the SF Marin Food Bank to evaluate whether that food bank is needed from a rent perspective. They could save money and redirect that money and staff to other areas that need financial attention within their organization.
  • Quality: Alteryx makes the development process noticeably clear in the workflow. The ability to document steps by container is perfect for auditors and other employees to understand why this workflow exists and where the data is coming from.
  • Return-on-investment: Creating and executing this workflow provided a clear picture of where SF Marin Food Bank needed to provide pop-up pantries and grocery delivery services.

It was an honor to assist SF Marin Food Bank in this ongoing fight against hunger. Knowing that our collaborative efforts is leading to households getting fed is rewarding. Since this was a successful use case, we would like to share this with other food banks. Our success at SF Marin Food Bank has led to us to new Alteryx opportunities six additional food bank across the country and several new Alteryx customers.



Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

Great use case @chriswilliams41 thank you for putting this together for others to learn from. I'm really excited about the upcoming Food Bank session on July 23rd! 



Interested in learning more about how can food banks adequately serve and positivity impact the long-term health, equal justice initiatives and security of a community? Click the image below to sign up for @chriswilliams41 training next week! 


Food Bank Chapter.jpg


Lori Misenhimer 

Corporate Social Responsibility l Social Impact l Alteryx For Good 


8 - Asteroid

Excited about the upcoming session, I tried to download and run the workflow but it's missing the main xlsx file. I am not sure if it's ok to have the file for practicing purpose or it's considered private. but still we will learn a lot from the session I am sure.





10 - Fireball
10 - Fireball

Hey AliAS, 


I will work with the Alteryx Use Case to reattach the packaged workflow with the Excel file. I can send you the file directly in the short term.





8 - Asteroid



Thanks a lot for the prompt reply, I just DM ed you.