A qualitative study of nutrition-based initiatives at selected food banks in the feeding America network

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Mar;113(3):411-415. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.11.001.


Food banks are the foundation of the US emergency food system. Although their primary mission is to alleviate hunger, the rise in obesity and diet-related diseases among food-insecure individuals has led some food bank personnel to actively promote more nutritious products. A qualitative interview approach was used to assess nutrition-related policies and practices among a sample of 20 food banks from the national Feeding America network. Most food bank personnel reported efforts to provide more fresh produce to their communities. Several described nutrition-profiling systems to evaluate the quality of products. Some food banks had implemented nutrition policies to cease distributing low-nutrient products, such as soda and candy; however, these policies were more controversial than other strategies. The obstacles to implementing strong nutrition policies included fear of reducing the total amount of food distributed, discomfort choosing which foods should not be permitted, and concern about jeopardizing relationships with donors and community partners. Empirical research is needed to measure how food bank nutrition policies influence relationships with food donors, the amount of food distributed, the nutritional quality of food distributed, and the contribution of food bank products to the food security and nutritional status of the communities they serve.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diet / standards*
  • Emergencies
  • Food Supply / standards*
  • Fruit
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritive Value
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Population Surveillance
  • Poverty
  • United States
  • Vegetables