Evaluating a Food Pantry-Based Intervention to Improve Food Security, Dietary Intake, and Quality in Midwestern Food Pantries

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2022 Nov;122(11):2060-2071. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2022.02.016. Epub 2022 Feb 26.


Background: Voices for Food was a longitudinal community, food pantry-based intervention informed by the social ecological model, and designed to improve food security, dietary intake, and quality among clients, which was carried out in 24 rural food pantries across 6 Midwestern states.

Objective: Our objective was to evaluate changes in adult food security, dietary intake, and quality from baseline (2014) to follow-up (2016), and to assess the role of adult food security on dietary outcomes.

Design: A multistate, longitudinal, quasi-experimental intervention with matched treatment and comparison design was used to evaluate treatment vs comparison group changes over time and changes in both groups over time.

Participants/setting: Adult food pantry clients (n = 617) completed a demographic food security survey, and up to three 24-hour dietary recalls at baseline (n = 590) and follow-up (n = 160).

Intervention: Community coaching served as the experimental component, which only "treatment" communities received, and a food council guide and food pantry toolkit were provided to both "treatment" and matched "comparison" communities.

Main outcome measures: Change in adult food security status, mean usual intakes of nutrients and food groups, and Healthy Eating Index-2010 scores were the main outcome measures.

Statistical analyses performed: Linear mixed models estimated changes in outcomes by intervention group and by adult food security status over time.

Results: Improvements in adult food security score (-0.7 ± 0.3; P = .01), Healthy Eating Index-2010 total score (4.2 ± 1.1; P < .0001), and empty calories component score (3.4 ± 0.5; P <.0001) from baseline to follow-up were observed in treatment and comparison groups, but no statistically significant changes were found for adult food security status, dietary quality, and usual intakes of nutrients and food groups between the 2 groups over time. The intervention effect on dietary quality and usual intake changes over time by adult food security status were also not observed.

Conclusions: Food pantry clients in treatment and comparison groups had higher food security and dietary quality at the follow-up evaluation of the Voices for Food intervention trial compared with baseline, despite the lack of difference among the groups as a result of the experimental coaching component.

Keywords: Diet quality; Emergency food assistance; Food pantry intervention; Food security; Healthy Eating Index.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Eating
  • Food
  • Food Assistance*
  • Food Security
  • Food Supply
  • Humans