Addressing Obesity through a Novel Food Pantry Intervention: Outcome Evaluation
Project Lead: Katie Martin, PhD
Many vulnerable low-income families face a double burden of malnutrition as they experience both food insecurity and obesity. Recent estimates show that 14 million children currently receive food from food pantries on a chronic basis that have limited access to healthy, affordable food.
Food pantries are often overlooked in food system and obesity research, yet they are a key component of the food environment.
Freshplace is an innovative food pantry model founded in Hartford, CT by three community agencies – Foodshare, Chrysalis Center, Inc., and Junior League of Hartford, Inc. in 2010. The Freshplace model is markedly different than a traditional food pantry as it offers participants:
- A client-choice design where participants select from a variety of fresh produce and healthy staples
- Trained case managers who offer individualized case management with motivational interviewing to help clients set and monitor goals for becoming food secure and self-sufficient
- Additional programs and services, such as Cooking Matters classes, exposure to nutrition education, resume building and job assistance
The model is also a systems change from a community standpoint, as it refocuses anti-hunger efforts toward the underlying issues of poverty that increase the risk of obesity and food insecurity, and brings together multiple community agencies for collective impact.
Researchers from the University of Saint Joseph conducted the first rigorous evaluation of a food pantry program with a randomized control trial comparing participants in the Freshplace program with traditional food pantries over 18 months.
Freshplace members were less than half as likely to experience very low food security, increased self-sufficiency by 4.1 points, and increased fruit and vegetable consumption by one serving per day compared to the control group, all outcomes P<.01. Our current efforts involve testing the feasibility and effectiveness of replicating the Freshplace model in additional food pantries in Hartford, CT.
Specific Aim #1: Determine the effectiveness of the Freshplace model to improve outcomes among food pantry recipients over 9 months.
Based on results from our original research, our hypothesis is that participants will experience increased food security, self-sufficiency, self-efficacy and fruit and vegetable consumption over 9 months.
- Recruited three pantries that plan to replicate the Freshplace model, and two additional organizations that plan to offer case management without a food pantry that will serve as a modified control group
- Trained case managers in motivational interviewing to help clients set goals
- Recruitment of study participants to begin late summer 2015
Specific Aim #2: Engage national partners to use food pantries as sites for obesity prevention and long-term food security by creating a website for use as an online platform to exchange information.
The website will be a clearinghouse for sharing results, training materials, lessons learned and resources.
- Using our website, food pantry directors, food bank directors and researchers doing similar work will share resources and best practices online.
- The online platform will include webinars, data collection instruments, research results, and discussion boards.
- Martin K, Colantonio A, Picho K. Relationship between food insecurity and self-efficacy in a food pantry intervention: a randomized control study. Poster Presentation. American Public Health Association annual meeting, New Orleans, LA, November 2014.
- Martin K, Wu R, Wolff M, Colantonio A, Grady J. Food pantry intervention increases food security, diet quality and self-sufficiency: Results from an 18-month randomized control study. American Public Health Association annual meeting, Boston, MA, November 2013.
- Martin K. The role of food pantries in the fight against obesity. Presentation and Podcast. Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, September 2013.
- Wolff M, Martin K. The Role of Food Pantries in the Food System: The Freshplace Model. Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale Food System Symposium. New Haven, Connecticut, September 2013.
- Martin K, Goyzueta J, Counsilman M. Freshplace: an Innovative Food Pantry with promising results in Hartford, CT. Oral Presentation. American Public Health Association, Washington, DC, Oct. 2011.
- Martin K, Wu R, Wolff M, Colantonio A, Grady J. Food Pantry Intervention Increases Food Security, Diet Quality and Self-Sufficiency. Am J Prev Med 2013;45(5):569–575.
- Robaina K, Martin K. Food Insecurity is related to Poor Diet Quality and Obesity among Food Pantry Participants in Hartford, CT. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2012 Mar;45(2):159-64.
- Martin K, Shuckerow M, O’Rourke C, Schmitz A. Changing the Conversation about Hunger – the Process of Developing Freshplace. Prog Community Health Partnersh. 2012 Winter;6(4):429-34.
- Martin K, Havens E, Boyle K, Matthews G, Schilling E, Harel O, Ferris A. If you stock it, will they buy it? Healthy food availability and customer purchasing behavior within corner stores in Hartford, CT. Pub Health Nutr, 2012;15(10):1973-1978.
- Martin K, Ghosh D, Page M, Wolff M, McMinimee K. What Role Do Local Grocery Stores Play in Urban Food Environments? A Case Study of Hartford-Connecticut. PLoS ONE 2014;9(4): e94033. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094033.
To learn more and find out how to get involved, please email the Global Obesity Prevention Center at Johns Hopkins directly here.