Assessing foodshelves' ability to distribute healthy foods to foodshelf clients

Jessica S. Rochester, Susie Nanney, Mary T Story

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Foodshelves provide a vital service of distributing food to food insecure families, but the resources foodshelves have to source and distribute healthy food and the extent to which this emergency food is healthy have not been evaluated. All member foodshelves of the Emergency Foodshelf Network (n = 58), a food bank in Minnesota, were sent a survey that assessed resources and barriers related to organizational policies, infrastructure, and access to healthy food that foodshelves face. Results from 35 responding agencies suggest that foodshelves with healthy food sourcing and distribution policies tended to serve larger caseloads, be managed by paid staff, and purchase more food than received as donations. Lack of healthy food in the hunger relief system was a barrier to foodshelves implementing policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-26
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Prevention Minnesota, of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, for their financial support and the foodshelf representatives for their cooperation. ∗Dr. Nanney holds a business interest in EFN. This relationship has been reviewed and managed by the University of Minnesota in accordance with its conflict of interest polices. Address correspondence to Jessica S. Rochester, Emergency Foodshelf Network, 8501 54th Avenue North, New Hope, MN 55428. E-mail:

Funding Information:
Social welfare programs that exist to fight food insecurity are operated by governmental entities (eg, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP]; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children [WIC]; the national School Lunch and Breakfast program) and private nonprofit organizations (eg, food banks and pantries and onsite meal programs). Foodshelves are also often called food pantries, food cupboards, or food banks. The term food bank more often refers to a large-scale food distribution agency that sources and distributes food to many foodshelves. Foodshelves are an important resource for food-insecure individuals and families because they provide an emergency 2-to 3-day supply of food to each client. Foodshelves often provide other supplementary services (help finding childcare, enrolling in the WIC program, or addressing housing issues) or provide referrals to nearby agencies that provide such services. Most foodshelves are registered nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations—operated either independently or as a part of a larger network. Foodshelves receive financial support from individuals, grants from private or corporate foundations, and government allocations. Nationwide, in 2005, approximately 25 million visits were made to foodshelves.14 Among foodshelf clients nationwide, 36% of households have one working adult, 12% of clients are homeless, and 10% are children.14 During the economic downturn, foodshelf usage in Minnesota increased by 40% from 2008 to 2009.

Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Food and nutrition policy
  • Food insecurity
  • Food pantry
  • Food shelves

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