Live United: The ball is rolling with the discussion about food security

Published 8:45 pm Friday, October 8, 2021

Live United by Erin Haag

When I sent the email invite out for the food security meeting, many email platforms decided that because I was inviting such a large group, it must be spam, and emails bounced back. I explained this to my contact at Channel One, and her response was, “Ugh. We thought we’d change/save the world, and we’re just sorting through bounce notices in our email inboxes.”

Erin Haag

Thankfully, I connected with people, and they got the information they needed. Goodness though, I kind of feel the same way about the meeting itself. Trying to change/save the world, and we’re having a meeting. Don’t get me wrong, they’re important. We needed that meeting, we needed to present the information. However, it’s the meeting after the meeting that makes a tangible difference sometimes.

I’ve snatched feedback from parking lots, from a casual encounter at the post office, from a text fired off that they’re interested in talking more. Now my job is to take all those impressions, build them together with a complete picture and answer questions.

As one food shelf volunteer stated, “The pot has now been stirred; it’s boiling over and we’re going to see what’s left.” That image gave me a little bit too much of a “Hocus Pocus” vibe for me. Does that mean I’m the witch stirring it up? Hopefully I’m the good witch of the north, and there are no houses about to land on me. (I’m from Kansas, of course I had to throw in “Wizard of Oz” in there). I’m intrigued by some of the ideas that come out. I’ll keep you posted on the progress and let you know what happens. These things take time, but we won’t let it lose momentum.

Remember how I’ve been talking abut shared outcomes? As a funder of programs, we want to invest in using data-driven decisions. In order to make those decisions, we need to become familiar with the metrics of our community.

One of those metrics is the RealAge test through the Blue Zones Project. The test helps our community track well being changes over time. Those test results are compiled of individuals like you that complete the survey — to give us an overall idea of our community well being.

That data is shared with community partners, including United Way and our partner programs. Really, it’s about the social determinants of health — the conditions that affect quality of life: safe housing, quality education, jobs with living wages, inclusive and equitable opportunities, access to nutritious foods, etc. When United Ways use social determinants of health as a guide, we are better equipped to understand and address the obstacles families are facing. This has become critical to our work by showing us that families in crisis are rarely struggling with a single, isolated issue.

The test is for everyone — even if you’ve taken it before. Here’s the challenge —if we don’t have enough people take the test, we won’t have enough data points to generate a report that we can use. The test results are confidential to you; it’s simply assimilated into an overall report. The test takes about 10 minutes. You can access it via our website: I’ll go a step further. If you’re needing assistance with the technology side of it, give our office a call at 507-373-8670, and we will work to find a solution for you. Depending on your situation, you could stop by our office, and a staff person will work with you to access the website.

Maybe you’ve taken it before. If you have, I encourage you to take it again. Your test results change over time, and you’ll be able to see if your overall well being has improved or gotten worse.

So — community conversations and metrics that rely on our community response. That’s what I’ve got for you this week! Anything you’re curious about and want me — or another program — to write about? Drop me a line at 507-373-8670 or, and tell me what’s on your mind.

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.