Nutrition Environment at Food Pantries Improves After Fresh Produce Donation Program

Starr'Retiece R. Gibson, Jessica Jarick Metcalfe, Jennifer McCaffrey, Trinity Allison, Melissa Pflugh Prescott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To evaluate the influence of the Growing Together Illinois fresh produce donation program and understand factors that affect produce distribution at participating food pantries. Methods: In this intervention at 17 Illinois food pantries, Master Gardeners supported food donation gardens, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education provided educational and environmental interventions to increase selection and use of fresh produce. This mixed-methods pre-post study assessed pantry characteristics and program impact via Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Assessment Tool evaluations, interview feedback from pantry staff, and structured pantry observations. Results: Pantries experienced significant increases from preintervention to postintervention in providing various types of produce, marketing and nudging healthful products, providing additional resources, and total Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Assessment Tool scores. Participants had positive feedback about the program and educational interventions and reported the weekly timing of donations mitigated potential storage and spoilage issues. Conclusions and Implications: Future research could focus on approaches to increase fresh produce in food pantries while supporting clients via nutrition and cooking education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)432-441
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • food access
  • food pantries
  • food waste
  • fresh produce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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