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Healthy Food Pantry Initiative

| New York

May 08, 2016

The goal of the Healthy Food Pantry Initiative is to work with food pantries and the community, to encourage the availability of healthier options and to make the healthier choices the easier choices in food pantries.

Staff work in partnership with pantries to create a healthy food environment by connecting food choice research with the food pantry environment. An assessment tool identifies possible interventions that will increase the availability and promotion of healthy foods.

Based on the pantries needs, a SNAP-Ed educator encourages and helps implement interventions such as

  • promotional signage
  • layout design
  • nutrition education
  • nutrition recipes and handouts

SNAP-Ed helps the pantry develop sustainable policies. After SNAP-Ed leaves, the food pantry environment and food procurement guidelines use their new policies to maintain changes.

As a part of this initiative, the Nourish Your Neighbor, healthy food drive campaign strives to bring healthier food donations into food pantries. Healthier items are not always available to order through the food bank. Typical donations tend to be high in sodium, saturated fat, and empty calories, and low in certain nutrients. SNAP-Ed collaborates with local businesses, agencies, or schools, and provides tools such as shopping lists, grocery bags, and posters with healthy shelf stable foods listed. These are used to gather healthier food donations.

Program Success

Each targeted food pantry implemented at least 5 interventions. New signage was added to the 4 client-choice food pantries. Each pantry made a change to the physical design of the pantry including display cases or baskets for fresh produce, adding color that highlights fresh produce, and changing the layout to promote produce first.

All pantries implemented a nutrition- based food pantry policy that helps support the environmental changes made. Each policy also incorporates recipes and nutrition education for pantry guests.

80 healthy food drives have been implemented, benefiting 41 food pantries throughout the region, and an average of over 70% healthy food was collected.

Type of Intervention

Policy, systems, and environmental change

Target Audience

People who receive SNAP benefits and are eligible to receive SNAP benefits who use food pantries in the greater capital region in New York State

Number of Participants

5 intervention food pantries, 41 receiving food pantries, and 80 agencies/businesses

Years of Implementation


Program Evaluation

An initial environmental assessment is conducted with interested food pantries to identify strengths and weaknesses related to the promotion of healthy foods. Interventions are implemented with consideration given to individual food pantry capacity. Post intervention, the environmental assessment and interviews are repeated, and used to identify the number of interventions that were implemented.

At six months, a follow -up to review fidelity, and identify additional opportunities for improvement is completed. A pre- and post-survey is used with the Nourish Your Neighbor campaign to evaluate the healthy food drive including the percentage of healthy food donated.

This post was submitted by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Albany County, an implementing agency of SNAP-Ed. For more information, please contact Kathleen McAllister.