Food Insecurity Posters

Aina Martinez Zurita, Tricia Shi, and Zachary Collins

    The data says that there is a large section of our society that grapples with food security every day. Many people, due to a societal expectation to be able to provide for themselves and their family, feel too ashamed to reach out for help when they struggle to make ends meet.

    The Greater Boston Area has many shelters, food pantries, and churches that offer free meals, housing, training, and other resources for free. Our target audience are individuals who are struggling with food insecurity, specifically those who use public transportation near these shelters and resource centers. Many people often don’t know what is in their area or even that that it’s typical for someone in their situation to receive assistance. The goal of our posters is to demonstrate that there are locations in their local area – near and around their home and daily commute – that can help and foster a sense that reaching out to these places for help is normal.

    In the Food For Free data files, we noticed a common theme among many of the individuals in the Project Bread Status Report – prior to getting the help that lifted them off their feet, they were unaware of where to go and / or embarrassed by the need to get help. We wanted to advertise some of these shelters but in a way that utilized the personal narrative surrounding the status report interviewees in an effort to shift the viewer’s perception.

    We researched a few of the shelters near and around Boston (Rosie’s Place, Elizabeth Peabody House, and My Brother’s Table) and gathered information about the number of people they are able to serve and what public transportation stops are close by. Using the personal stories from the status report and quotes from individuals who were helped by these resource centers, we made posters that bring to the surface who these places aid. By providing a face, quotes, and information about their income and occupation, we build a very relatable image that can help people realize where they can get help and that people like them often do. At the bottom of our poster, we mention that these places serve many individuals, suggesting that going there is normal. We also provide helpful information about how to get there.

    When putting all of these components together, we have a poster that demonstrates that getting help with food insecurity is a normal act – something that others like them have done and are extremely thankful for. From far away, one can see the image of the person and the quote about the help they received. This puts the focus on someone who they can connect to. When observed up close, they can get more information about what might make the individual’s current situation similar to theirs. This can help remove any stigma about feeling alone and embarrassed. They can then get a more detailed description about the shelter or pantry including a quick blurb about its proximity and how to get there. The medium of a poster makes gathering all of this information very quick and covert, and is able to paint a clear image for how it can help them.

    If we were to take this sketch and expand it, we would interview many more individuals who go to the food shelters near and around Boston, allowing us to build many different profiles for many different people and locations. Pasting a few around an individual shelter or pantry could intercept many who could use help as they commute to work or other places around the city. This way, we would be able to hopefully change the misconceptions they have about food insecurity and the number of people it impacts.




What’s (Not) for Dinner?

Brandon Levy, Sean Soni, Mikayla Murphy, Meghan Kokoski

The data say that 700,000 children and adults in Massachusetts don’t have enough food to eat and 40 percent of the food produced in the US each year is wasted. MIT’s dining halls donate excess food to Food for Free, so when MIT students waste food at dining halls, that wasted food could have provided meals to food-insecure individuals via Food for Free’s Family Meals program. We want to tell this story because we think it will encourage MIT students to take smaller portions and reduce food waste, thereby helping both the environment and Food for Free.

Our audience is MIT students who eat in MIT’s dining halls (although our installation could be implemented at any dining hall that donates extra food to Food for Free).

Our goal is to encourage MIT students to waste less food, which not only helps the environment but also helps to feed the hungry by increasing the amount of food MIT’s dining halls can donate to Food for Free.


Our installation shows the number of food-insecure individuals Food for Free’s Family Meals program could feed with the food wasted in MIT dining halls, which donate excess food to Food for Free. Our project uses several sources of data, one of which currently exists and some that we would find or generate ourselves if we implemented this idea. We pulled positive quotes about Food for Free from a database of feedback provided by the organization’s recipients. If we went ahead with this project, we would ask Food for Free to provide data on approximately how much food (by weight) goes into each Family Meal they prepare, so as to accurately calculate how many people Food for Free could feed with the food wasted in MIT’s dining halls. We might also run a short experiment to calculate roughly how much of the food wasted in MIT dining halls could be used instead by Food for Free – specifically, cases where a student could have taken a smaller portion of food, since food refuse like apple cores and discrete food items like burgers and bread that have bites taken out of them would not be useable by Food for Free if they were saved.

MIT students often take excessively large portions given the chance and throw away the uneaten food. Our installation would confront students with the consequences of those actions by displaying the amount of wasted food that an MIT dining hall could have donated to Food for Free and how many people could have been fed with that food. The idea that someone might go hungry because of wasted food at an MIT dining hall provides an emotional punch to our call-to-action (reducing food waste) and, in our opinion, makes it more likely that our message will stick with students and influence their future behavior. The use of photos from Food for Free and quotes from organizations that receive rescued food from the organization also helps to humanize the food-insecure individuals who would benefit if MIT students reduced their food waste, adding additional emotional weight to our message. Finally, the practical tips we provide for reducing food waste will help students take the action we want them to.