Improving the Nutritional Quality of Food Pantry Donations in Clinton County
Building Healthy Communities
September 30, 2016
Many residents of rural Clinton County must travel far for nearly everything: school, health care, exercise, food, and social activities. For low-income residents facing food insecurity, unreliable access to transportation means they must rely on food options close to home, of which the most accessible source is the township’s food pantry.
Relying heavily on donations, food pantries typically do not accept large amounts of fresh produce and other perishable items because of a lack of sufficient facilities and resources to preserve them. Nonperishable foods are based on what donors choose to donate, which are often low-cost, unhealthy, and unwanted items. As local pantries supply enough food to feed all household members three meals a day, the quality of the foods available for distribution has an impact on the nutritional intake and dietary patterns of the entire household. In 2016, NYSHealth awarded a grant to Clinton County Health Department (CCHD) to increase the inventory of and demand for healthy food products at local pantries.
Under this grant, CCHD increased the capacity of the County’s emergency food relief organizations to receive, store, and distribute healthy food. Specifically, CCHD assessed the current capacity of emergency food pantries to preserve perishable foods and provide technical assistance to improve this capacity. It also integrated the use of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foods to Encourage (F2E)—a tool that helps food pantries accurately evaluate the nutritional value of their inventories—in all Clinton County food pantries, as well as provided a F2E-related program to local faith-based organizations that organize food drives. In addition, CCHD generated greater demand for healthy food products among pantry clients. To achieve this, CCHD enrolled all local food pantries in the Better Choice Retailer Program, which provides low-cost displays that encourage the selection of healthier food and nutrition education to food pantry workers and clients and food drive organizers.