Hi everyone! I’m Caleb Shook and I am super excited to be a part of the Community Research Fellowship this year. A quick introduction: I am a rising sophomore at Pitt majoring in Business Information Systems and Political Science. At Pitt I am the Director of Experience Based Learning for the League of Emerging Analytics Professionals (LEAP), Pitt Business’s hub of data analytics. My role is to create opportunities through workshops, presentations, case competitions and projects for our members to learn and practice their analytics skills, tools and techniques. When I’m not doing analytics, I love to be outside, especially hiking and backpacking. Over the last five to six years I have backpacked over 500 miles and my dream is to one day through-hike the Pacific Coast Trail. In the future, I hope to be able to do meaningful work, combining my passions for data and analytics with my love of policy and government. I can’t wait to put some of my analytics skills into practice this summer and learn and develop even more as part of the CRF!
This summer, I will be working with another CRF scholar and fellow LEAP leader, Dylan Delapaz. We will be working with a local nonprofit, Food21 to do research on food insecurity in Allegheny County. Specifically, we are focusing on helping to develop a case study on one of the large projects that Food21 has helped create, Oasis Grocery Direct (OGD), and working to continue their ongoing analysis into the food economy in the county. To start out, we will be working to interview some of the key people involved in the creation of the OGD program and conducting a qualitative analysis on their responses which will be part of a larger case study effort to understand and document the formation of the program and what would be needed to replicate it elsewhere. The Oasis Grocery Direct program in Pittsburgh is an initiative to bring fresh produce and other grocery items into food insecure areas using an online ordering portal and local distribution centers within communities. Food21 partnered with organizations like Azoti, who provides the online ordering platform, Giant Eagle, who is providing their product inventory as the main supply for OGD, and local farmers and producers to create the OGD program, which will be launching later this year. As we move forward this summer, we will begin working on the Allegheny County Food Economy project, which is Food21’s push to benchmark and understand the food economy in the county and create a dashboard that can be used to understand where opportunities for investment and development can have the most impact. Our role will be analyzing data about certain metrics and creating visualizations to be added to the developing food economy dashboard.
As part of the CRF program, I hope to develop new skills like qualitative analysis and building a foundation in programming languages like SQL and Python in order to learn more about data analytics, especially as applied to social impact topics, for my own development and to bring new skills and techniques back to LEAP so our members can continue to grow and learn as well. I am very interested in seeing how data analytics can be used for more than increasing profit and productivity and how organizations like Food21 are using analytics to study and build better solutions to major social issues. I believe that analytics is the future of every industry but that we are responsible for using it properly and directing its power to where it can do the most good, helping others. Data and analytics have immense potential to create intelligent and targeted solutions and influence research-backed policy in the future, and I want to be a part of that.
I have very little research experience on my own, and that is another part of what I hope to learn through the CRF program; I want to be more aware of how research is done and what it is capable of. Food21’s research is rather unique in America right now. Once completed, the Allegheny County Food Economy dashboard will be one of, if not the first of its kind, especially in how much detail and data it will provide. The OGD program is also one of the first programs using local drop off points and online ordering to bring groceries to people who need them, without building a physical grocery store. I think these projects are working toward a better future and show how powerful data-driven solutions and partnerships can be and I am incredibly excited to be a part of that work!