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The Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Toolkit is a PSE change intervention designed to create pantry spaces where the healthy choice is the easy choice and that promote dignity and inclusivity. The toolkit includes site implementation materials that support pantries and technical assistance providers in carrying out small and large-scale interventions specific to food distribution styles, pantry layout, promotion techniques of healthful foods, variety of fruits and vegetables available, accessibility of information about community resources, and meeting the needs of diverse pantry audiencesPantry-level interventions are meant to be low or no-cost. The toolkit includes two validated environmental assessment tools to quantify the nutrition environment of food pantries, the original Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Assessment Tool (NEFPAT), and an enhanced version called NEFPAT Plus. It also includes NEFPAT-user training and implementation materials.

Intervention Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Food Insecurity/Food Assistance

SNAP-Ed Strategies: PSE Change

Intervention Reach and Adoption

The toolkit targets food pantry clients across all demographics in stand-alone food pantries/banks, mobile pantries, and pantries in other settings (schools, faith-based, etc.) in rural and urban communities. In FY18, 88 Illinois pantries adopted at least 1 nutrition support (69.3%).In FY19, 85 pantries adopted at least 1 nutrition support with 403 total nutrition supports adopted across Illinois including 32 policy changes, 142 systems changes, 94 environmental changes, and 135 promotional efforts for a PSE change. 

Settings: Food Pantries

Age/Population Group: Unhoused

Race: All

Ethnicity: Hispanic or Latino Origin, Not of Hispanic or Latino Origin

Intervention Components

Users complete a food pantry intervention in 5 phases. 1) partner engagement and relationship building, 2) pre-assessment, 3) action planning, 4) intervention and effectiveness testing, and 5) post-assessment 4-6 months after the initial assessment. This cycle can continue until the pantry achieves sustainable practices. The toolkit includes training materials and resources for conducting a food pantry environmental assessment. These components provide the information needed to conduct NEFPAT or NEFPAT Plus assessments with fidelity and should remain intact. The completed pre-assessment and Technical Assistance & Resource Guide are used during the action planning stage. Implementation materials included in the Toolkit serve as supports for implementing PSE changes during the intervention phase.

Intervention Materials

Intervention materials are available on the web and include:

  • Assessment tool and training video/documents
  • Process and strategies map
  • Sample follow-up report and action plan
  • Technical Assistance Resource Guide
  • Implementation resources (English and Spanish), sample policies, flyers, shelf-talkers, produce handling/storage materials, healthy donation templates, food prep videos, photo recipes, etc.

Additional implementation materials are released as developed. A website to host resource is currently under construction.

Evidence Summary

The toolkit implementation materials are considered a practice-tested intervention (see Intervention Reach and Adoption and Evaluation Indicators sections for statistics in IL.)

In a peer-reviewed Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior publication, the NEFPAT was found to be a content valid and interrater reliable instrument for evaluating the food pantry nutrition environment. The overall tool and each of its objectives had high content validity when evaluated by emergency food experts. The average rating of each objective was 3.9 out of 4.0, ± 0.1. Interviews with pilot-testers indicated NEFPAT was positively received and a valuable asset in the field. Pilot-testers suggested minor changes to increase clarity and collect pantry characteristics. Pilot-testers found that observations took ~20-30 minutes to complete, with additional time for pantry engagement. Developers determined that inter-rater reliability for NEFPAT was above the strong threshold (>0.7).

A follow-up publication in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior details pre/post NEFPAT scores from the IL pilot and statewide food pantry intervention phases, 2016-2018 and 2017-2020 respectively. Matched pre/post assessments were analyzed to evaluate changes in pantry nutrition environments after the provision of technical assistance by SNAP-Ed staff who collected data from and provided technical assistance to food pantries in their geographic area. Six staff conducted all NEFPAT observations in the pilot phase and 35 staff assessed and assisted pantries in the statewide phase. In the pilot phase, two objectives on the NEFPAT observation increased significantly among 23 pantries with pre/post data. In the statewide phase, most NEFPAT objectives and the overall NEFPAT score (22.12 +/- 8.16 vs 28.20 +/- 7.14, p <0.001) significantly increased among 66 pantries with pre/post data. 

In 2022, NEFPAT developers conducted a comprehensive review of the original NEFPAT to incorporate new empirical evidence, emergency food system nutrition standards, and user feedback. The revised version, NEFPAT Plus, underwent pilot-testing at 5 Illinois food pantries, expert content validity testing by 18 professionals and inter-rater and test-retest reliability testing at 21 food pantries spaced approximately one month apart. Test results demonstrate the content validity, inter-rater and test-retest reliability of NEFPAT Plus which is currently under review for publication. Additional analysis details will be released at the time of publication.

Evidence Base: Research-tested

Evaluation Indicators

Based on the SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework, the following outcome indicators can be used to evaluate intervention progress and success.

 Readiness and Capacity - Short Term (ST)Changes - Medium Term (MT)Effectiveness and Maintenance - Long Term (LT)Population Results (R)
Environmental SettingsST5MT5LT5
Sectors of Influence   
  • ST5: Need and readiness 
    • ST5: 189 of pantry sites with documented readiness for change in PSE (2017 to current)
  • MT5: Nutrition Supports 
    • MT5: 1488 nutrition supports adopted in Illinois 
    • MT5a: 253 pantries that adopted at least 1 PSE change in Illinois (2017 to present)
    • MT5b: 126 policy changes in Illinois (2017 to present)
    • MT5c: 592 systems changes in Illinois (2017 to current)
    • MT5e: 770 environmental changes in Illinois (2017 to current)
  • LT5c: 71 pantries show improved NEFPAT scores and made a least one PSE change (2017 to current)
Evaluation Materials

This toolkit includes two validated tool options: the original NEFPAT and the 2023 updated-version, NEFPAT Plus. These tools help users plan interventions and capture PSE changes made in food pantries. Both tools are researched-tested and users can select whichever tool best meets the needs of their organization and/or partner. Post-assessments are conducted 4-6 months after the pre-assessment and initial intervention period. Repeat assessments can be completed to evaluate additional intervention periods until sustainability is achieved.

Success Story
Additional Information

Website: The NEFPAT website includes training, assessment, and implementation materials for NEFPAT.

Contact Person:

Caitlin Kownacki - Senior Program Lead



*Updated as of September 4, 2023

Resource Type
Age/Population Group
Intervention Target Behavior
Evaluation Framework Indicators
Intervention Outcome Levels
SNAP-Ed Strategies
Evidence Base