Food pantries are responsible for the direct distribution of food to low-income households. While food pantries may be concerned about the nutritional quality of the food they are serving, they may have limited resources to adopt and implement nutrition policies to support efforts to promote high nutritional quality of the food served. Guided by the RE-AIM (Reach, Effectiveness or Efficacy, Adoption, Implementation, Maintenance) framework, this qualitative study explored the degree of implementation of nutrition policies at food pantries, as well as the barriers to implementation in those pantries that had not adopted a nutrition policy. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 10 food pantry directors: seven pantries with a formal nutrition policy and three with an informal nutrition policy. Using a thematic analysis method, results demonstrated themes from the interviews with policy-adopting pantries to be barriers, enforcement, delivery of the policy, unexpected consequences, and fidelity to the policy. A targeted intervention that builds on this research and focuses on building the capacity of food pantries to develop, adopt, and implement nutrition policies as well as helping to increase fidelity to the policy would be beneficial to continue to improve the food donated and distributed at food pantries. By supporting food pantries in the development, adoption, and implementation of nutrition policies, researchers can play an important role in improving the quality of food in the emergency food network.
Keywords: RE-AIM; food pantries; implementation; nutrition policy; thematic analysis.