Question Keeper evaluation tool

Hannah M. Fisher photo.

A growing number of people and organizations across Iowa are working hard to meet the increased consumer demand for healthy, locally produced foods. But how do we know whether our projects and programs are accomplishing our goals? A new tool developed by the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Local Foods Program can help.

Over the years, evaluators working with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and later the Local Foods Program within Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, have received countless requests for evaluating impact — most recently, impact on policy and systems change. In response, Local Foods Program evaluators Corry Bregendahl, Arlene Enderton, and Alice Topaloff have developed Question Keeper: an online tool that allows users to quickly sort through a large database of field-tested survey questions to build their own questionnaires and other evaluation tools. This tool is available for free during its first year of implementation.

“Evaluating systems change is a very abstract concept,” said Bregendahl, “and we found it much easier to share examples of questions we developed and used to help various groups understand what systems change really meant.” The database grew out of this realization. The overall purpose of the tool is to enable everyone working in the area of food systems do their own evaluation, added Enderton. Users are free to modify the tools they generate in Question Keeper to match their own situation.

The surveys and questions were developed by Local Foods Program staff and partners. Question Keeper was funded in part by the University of Minnesota Extension to Families unit, which asked the Local Foods Program evaluators to help them do policy, systems, and environmental evaluation and capacity building for their staff.

Bregendahl said, “Question Keeper is a more formal attempt to not only document how we have measured changes in food systems and local agriculture over nearly the past decade, but also is an attempt to  make it part of the public domain by sharing it with others so they can build on our work.”

You can watch a video tutorial at this link. If you have questions, contact the staff at

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