This descriptive study explored the views of food pantry directors in four states regarding pantry fruit and vegetable stock and supply, nutrition education offered, and current practices and perceived barriers to providing access to food pantries to low-income individuals and families in need. This study examined these variables by surveying staff at the food pantries who have direct contact with the individuals and families who utilize the pantries. All survey responses were collected utilizing Qualtrics software and then analyzed in SPSS. There were 87 respondents from four different states, California, Maine, Mississippi, and South Dakota.
The reporting for both fresh fruits and fresh vegetables was similar across states, with California and Maine having a higher supply of fresh produce. Mississippi and South Dakota reported that the percentage of their fresh fruits and vegetables was between 0-25% at all participating pantries, no pantries reported that their stock of fresh produce was over 25% in these two states.
Overall, the largest need was for dark-green vegetables, 43% (n=37), red and orange vegetables, 46% (n=40) and fruit, 38% (n=33) reported an insufficient supply. The majority reported a sufficient supply of starchy vegetables, 70% (n=61) other vegetables, 60% (n=52) and legumes, beans and peas, 62% (n=54).
There were multiple barriers reported across states that have made it challenging to provide individuals and families access to their pantry. The primary barriers in California, Maine and Mississippi were: limited staffing and volunteers, limited operating hours, and lack of transportation to the pantry.
All pantries in this study reported taking steps to make it easier for clients to access their agency. Some of the ways they have done this is through expanding operating hours, increasing staff, providing information on public transportation to pantry clients, reducing the documentation requirements and providing delivery to home services.
It is very apparent through this research that food pantries are aware of the challenges that both they and their clients face. The participating pantries in this study reported that they have made changes in order to better accommodate individuals and families in need.
Date of Degree
Master of Science (MS)
Allied Health and Nursing
Fowler, S. L. (2016). Fruit and Vegetable Availability, Nutrition Education and Access Amongst Food Pantries in California, Maine, Mississippi and South Dakota [Master’s thesis, Minnesota State University, Mankato]. Cornerstone: A Collection of Scholarly and Creative Works for Minnesota State University, Mankato. https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/etds/598/
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