The purpose of this paper is to inquiry dietary behavior and the physical and mental health status of food pantry users to better understand issues related to food insecurity and to explore predictors of intentions for self-sufficiency.
The authors randomly surveyed 12 food pantries (151 consumers) sponsored by the North Texas Food Bank in USA, regarding dietary behavior, health status, reasons for food pantry use, satisfaction with services provided, and self-sufficient behavior and support.
About 37 percent of survey participants would expect to continue using food pantry services for one or more years. Reasons for food pantry use included low job earnings, unemployment, poor health, and disability. Over 83 percent of them were either overweight or obese, and over half (57 percent) of them had moderate or severe mental disorder symptoms that warrant examination by healthcare practitioners. On average, their health-related quality of life was lower than the general population. Participants’ physical health was significantly correlated with work intention. The hierarchical regression model predicting work intention had a large effect size.
This research has highlighted the importance of improving food pantry consumers’ health and self-sufficiency in order to live sufficiently and healthily.
Community health practitioners need to help food banks address the needs beyond hunger to focus on the larger ramification of food insecurity such as self-sufficiency and health-related quality of life.
This work extends the existing studies focused on food insecurity, and it will enable the collaborations among food banks, social workers, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and public health practitioners.
Support for this study was provided by the North Texas Food Bank. The authors thank Candice Sims who collected data and completed data entry.
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