The North Carolina Food Pantry Organizational Capability and Mapping Study
Research Brief and Pilot Study
Given the importance of food banks to the availability of accessible food, attention to the resilience of regional systems for bringing food from producers to distributors—including local food pantries—is of prime concern. By utilizing a partnership between Appalachian State University and Feeding America, through the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, we gathered information regarding the capabilities of seven regional food pantries. This pilot study focused on the capabilities of the selected food pantries to provide food assistance, promote self-efficacy, and address root causes of hunger in their communities.
We utilized a cross-sectional survey developed at the University of Oklahoma as well as descriptive statistics to create resource maps utilizing geographic information systems (GIS) software. This approach provided a model for an upcoming survey of three hundred food pantries located throughout the state of North Carolina to be implemented by Appalachian State University and research partners from the University of North Carolina. The larger study will expand knowledge regarding the best practices for food pantry operations, highlight opportunities to strengthen organizational capabilities including nutrition offerings and other wraparound services, support the development of resource maps to optimize the use of regional and self-efficacy-related resources for low-income clients and communities, and promote the expansion of opportunities for collaboration and funding.
Ultimately, we plan to utilize statewide data to develop a Food Pantry Capability Index based on selected measures encompassing available food assets, financial resources, size of area served, population-specific demographics, and number and type of auxiliary services offered including economic development initiatives. Such an Index could be used nationwide to assess and improve overall food resiliency and self-efficacy for given communities, counties, regions, and states.
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