Introduction: Food insecurity is a growing concern among college students and is especially prevalent in rural areas. Food pantries often serve as a resource to food insecure individuals yet, their policies, standards, and nutritional quality vary due to the unpredictability of food donations.

Purpose: To examine the nutritional quality of food items and adherence of best practices at local food pantries accessible to college students near a university in rural Appalachia.

Methods: Three food pantries in North Carolina were selected due to their proximity to a local, rural university. Food items were analyzed for nutrient and food group content and compared to national recommended standards for a moderately active 20-year-old male student. Food pantry environments were analyzed using the Healthy Food Pantry Assessment Tool (HFPAT).

Results: All pantries scored in acceptable ranges (39, 59, and 60) on the HFPAT. Food pantries provided 38% of total daily calories and below recommended daily levels for vitamin C (27%), vitamin D (5%), potassium (29%), and calcium (38%), but above recommended levels for sugar (220%), and trans-fat (342%). When all the food from food pantries were combined, they still did not meet food group recommendations, providing: 25% fruit, 50% vegetable, 9% grain, 15% protein, and 20% dairy servings over a 14-day period.

Implications: In general, students who rely on food pantries as their sole source of food do not reach recommend levels for nutrients or food groups. Interventions, programs, and/or policies which increase the healthfulness of food pantry items are warranted to improve the quality of food available to food insecure college students.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Recommended Citation

Frymark EE, Stickford JL, Farris AR. A nutritional and environmental analysis of local food pantries accessible to college students in rural North Carolina. J Appalach Health 2020;2(2):24–35. DOI: https://doi.org/10.13023/jah.0202.03.