Online Program

Assessing community readiness for food pantry nutrition initiatives

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 1:15 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Marianna Wetherill, PhD, MPH, RDN-AP/LD, Department of Health Promotion Sciences, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, College of Public Health, Tulsa, OK
Laura Hixson, MSW, MPH, College of Public Health, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Tulsa, OK
Sara Amberg, MFA, Independent Consultant, Eagle, CO
Michelle Berger Marshall, MS, RD, Research, Evaluation and Community Health & Nutrition, Feeding America, Chicago, IL

The consequences of food insecurity on chronic disease risk and management behaviors are well documented.  Nearly 1 in 7 people access foods through 46,000 partner agencies supported by nearly 200 Feeding America network food banks. Feeding America supports initiatives that meet the nutritional needs of food insecure clients; however, food pantry readiness for such initiatives is unknown. 


A purposive sample of leaders from eleven diverse metropolitan food pantry operations completed structured interviews describing their readiness for improving the nutritional quality and medical suitability of foods distributed at their respective food pantries.  Two research team members analyzed interview transcripts using methods outlined in The Community Readiness Guide.


Most participants did not perceive their role in the community as health related; few could describe the relationship between food insecurity and health risk. The vast majority of food pantries were in the denial/resistance, vague awareness, or pre-planning stages of readiness due to limited knowledge of the issue; absent, passive, or failed efforts to implement nutrition initiatives; leadership ambivalence; inadequate resources; and a community climate endorsing unhealthy eating habits. Leaders of food pantries with higher readiness clearly articulated the issue and executed strategic planning to improve the nutritional quality of foods.


To build readiness for nutrition initiatives, food banks should raise community awareness about food insecurity and chronic disease risk.  Food pantry leaders must perceive their operations as a critical component of community health. Coalition building and technical assistance are potential strategies for achieving these goals.

Learning Areas:

Chronic disease management and prevention
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Program planning
Social and behavioral sciences
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Define the dimensions of community readiness. Explain the implications for community readiness in food pantry and food bank systems change.

Keyword(s): Food Security, Chronic Disease Management and Care

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a registered dietitian with 10 years community-based practice, evaluation, and intervention development experience delivering nutrition services to food insecure populations. I have collaborated with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and other community-based providers on multiple research projects as a principal investigator on studies related to food insecurity, health issues, and readiness for nutrition initiatives.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.