A behavioural economics approach to improving healthy food selection among food pantry clients

Caitlin E Caspi, Marna Canterbury, Samantha Carlson, Jamie Bain, Laura Bohen, Katherine Grannon, Hikaru H Peterson, Thomas E Kottke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objective To test the effect of a behavioural economics intervention in two food pantries on the nutritional quality of foods available at the pantries and the foods selected by adults visiting food pantries.Design An intervention (SuperShelf) was implemented in two food pantries (Sites A and B), with two other pantries (Sites C and D) serving as a control for pantry outcomes. The intervention aimed to increase the amount and variety of healthy foods (supply), as well as the appeal of healthy foods (demand) using behavioural economics strategies. Assessments included baseline and 4-month follow-up client surveys, client cart inventories, pantry inventories and environmental assessments. A fidelity score (range 0-100) was assigned to each intervention pantry to measure the degree of implementation. A Healthy Eating Index-2010 (HEI-2010) score (range 0-100) was generated for each client cart and pantry.Setting Four Minnesota food pantries, USA.Participants Clients visiting intervention pantries before (n 71) and after (n 70) the intervention.Results Fidelity scores differed by intervention site (Site A=82, Site B=51). At Site A, in adjusted models, client cart HEI-2010 scores increased on average by 11·8 points (P<0·0001), whereas there was no change at Site B. HEI-2010 pantry environment scores increased in intervention pantries (Site A=8 points, Site B=19 points) and decreased slightly in control pantries (Site C=-4 points, Site D=-3 points).Conclusions When implemented as intended, SuperShelf has the potential to improve the nutritional quality of foods available to and selected by pantry clients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2303-2313
Number of pages11
JournalPublic health nutrition
Issue number12
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This publication was made possible by funds from Duke University through the support of a grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors.


  • Behavioural economics
  • Food insecurity
  • Food pantries
  • Healthy Eating Index-2010
  • Intervention


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