Applying the Healthy Eating Index-2015 in a Sample of Choice-Based Minnesota Food Pantries to Test Associations Between Food Pantry Inventory, Client Food Selection, and Client Diet



      Food pantry clients are at a high risk for diet-related chronic disease and suboptimal diet. Relatively little research has examined diet quality measures in choice-based food pantries where clients can choose their own food.


      This study tested whether the diet quality scores for food at the pantry were associated with client food selection scores, and whether client food selection scores at the pantry were associated with client diet intake scores.


      This cross-sectional regression analysis, part of a larger evaluation study (SuperShelf), used baseline data from client and food pantry surveys, food pantry inventories, assessments of client food selections (“client carts”), and single 24-hour client dietary recalls.


      The analysis includes 316 clients who completed a survey (282 of whom completed a dietary recall measure) from one of 16 choice-based Minnesota food pantries during 2018-2019. Adult English, Spanish, or Somali-speaking clients were eligible in the case that they had selected food on the day of recruitment at their food pantry visit.

      Main outcome measures

      A Healthy Eating Index-2015 (HEI-2015) Total score and 13 subcomponent scores were calculated for: pantry food inventories of food available on the shelf, client carts, and a 24-hour client dietary recall.

      Statistical analysis

      Descriptive statistics were generated for client and food pantry characteristics, and for HEI-2015 Total score and subcomponent scores. Linear regression models tested the association between HEI-2015 Total score and subcomponent scores for food pantry inventory and client carts, and for client carts and dietary recalls, adjusted for covariates.


      Food pantry inventory HEI-2015 Total score averaged 65.1, client cart Total score averaged 60.8, and dietary recall Total score averaged 50.9. The diet quality scores for inventory were not associated with client cart scores, except for Added Sugars (P = .005). Client cart HEI-2015 Total score was positively associated with client diet HEI-2015 Total score (P = .002) and associations for Total Fruits, Whole Fruits, Total Vegetables, Greens and Beans, Whole Grains, Seafood and Plant Proteins, and Added Sugars subcomponents were statistically significant.


      In choice-based Minnesota food pantries, the diet quality of food selected by clients was positively associated with client diet quality.


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      C. E. Caspi is director of food security initiatives, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, University of Connecticut, Hartford; an associate professor, Department of Allied Health Sciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs; and an assistant/associate professor, Program in Health Disparities Research, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      C. Davey is a data analyst with the Biostatistical Design and Analysis Center, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      C. B. Barsness is a project manager, Program in Health Disparities Research, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      J. Wolfson is an associate professor, Division of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      H. Peterson is a professor, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, St Paul.


      R. Pratt is an aassistant professor, Program in Health Disparities Research, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.