This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

An Assessment of Alabama Food Pantry Nutrition Environments




Sanchez, Sofia

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



The US Dietary Guidelines recommend following a nutrient-dense dietary pattern while limiting added sugars, sodium, and saturated fat for all to maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent diet-related disease. However, a growing number of US adults have inadequate access to these foods. Similar to retail environments in limited-resource communities, such as grocery outlets and farmers markets, food pantries are increasingly studied sites for healthy food availability and access interventions to support healthy choices among consumers and clients. This two-study dissertation aims to describe and evaluate a food pantry nutrition environment intervention in a convenience sample of Alabama pantries (n = 55). Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) educators provided technical assistance designed to improve a pantry’s nutrition environment. We used a validated assessment tool to determine changes in the environment. We found Alabama pantries demonstrate lower nutrition environments when compared to US averages. We also found technical assistance provided by SNAP-Ed translated into positive significant changes in pantry nutrition environments. Finally, we observed associations among environment changes with pantry and neighborhood characteristics. We also assessed food pantry manager nutrition knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors (n = 44). Managers demonstrated positive nutrition beliefs and behaviors, and average to low-average nutrition knowledge. Data were not associated with pantry nutrition environments. We found pantry characteristics were more strongly associated with a pantry’s nutrition environment score than manager perceptions of nutrition. Our findings demonstrate a continued opportunity to support Alabama pantries in improving healthy food availability and access for clients. Identifying solutions for infrastructural barriers to healthy food distribution may be more influential predictors of healthy pantry practices.