Use of emergency food by food pantry clients in Fairfax, Virginia

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Virginia Tech


Demand for emergency food at food pantries nationwide has increased rapidly during the past 15 years. Food pantries have varied policies for distributing food to clients. Clients of a food pantry in Fairfax, Virginia, were surveyed to determine their satisfaction with the food they received and to help develop guidelines in order to improve future food deliveries. Thirty-six food deliveries were made during a 6-week study period. The population studied consisted of 79 children (under age 19) and 41 adults. Children were present in 89% of the households; of these, 77% were headed by single women and 6%, by single men. Eighty-eight percent were satisfied with the foods they received. Clients wished they had received more meat, fresh milk, cheese, eggs, and pasta. Powdered milk was the only food received that was reported as disliked by more than one family. When foods delivered were compared with foods used, clients used less powdered milk, dry beans, and peanut butter than they received, but more fresh milk, meat, cheese, eggs, and fresh vegetables and fruits than were delivered by the pantry driver. Recommended guidelines for types and amounts of foods were developed using basic nutrition principles, as described in the USDA food guide pyramid, modified to fit the types of foods that are available in food pantries and the preferences of those sampled.