I was very apprehensive going into client data collection. I did not feel comfortable approaching people and asking them to take a 20-30 minute survey without knowing their situation or their day's schedule.
Allison Majewski is the Hunger study Coordinator at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, DC. She shares with us her experience collecting data for Hunger in America 2014 research study.
During the data collection from the agencies, I had no problem asking them to complete the Agency Survey. It was over the phone, email, or mail—rarely in person, and it was part of their agreement with the food bank that they would participate in the hunger studies. So when doing that, it was very easy to get them to fulfill a "requirement." By no means did we put any restrictions on the agencies, but it seemed easier to stress the importance and encourage them to fill it out.
I was very apprehensive going into client data collection. I did not feel comfortable approaching people and asking them to take a 20-30 minute survey without knowing their situation or their day's schedule. I didn't want to ask them to share personal information when they were already putting their pride aside to seek help. But as I talked to different clients at sites—both sampled and those who just approached me—I learned that we are offering clients the opportunity to share their voice. We are giving them the chance to tell others about their circumstances and how they provide for their families. Many clients are more than willing to take the survey. They tell me how happy they are to do anything to give back, especially when that particular program has done so much for them. Many are pleased they have the chance to explain that they do work and/or go to school, but they are still unable to make ends meet. After the few program visits I have completed so far, I am more willing to engage and ask clients if they want to participate. I am no long[er] half-heartedly requesting they share their story, but I am happy to be able to give them the chance.
I think it is often lost in the data collection what the outcome will be. I know Capital Area Food Bank will be relying on this data for the four years until the next hunger study. While planning and organizing and carrying out the Agency Survey and Client Interviews is time consuming and sometimes frustrating, this is the most critical part in creating that final report we all rely so heavily on. It is the clients at the program sites that have made me realize this, and I hope others are having the same experience.