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Research and Development

Background of the Healthy Food Pantry Assessment Tool

The Healthy Food Pantry Assessment Project is a research endeavor of the Regional Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Center of Excellence – West (RNECE-W). This project addresses the lack of an evidence-based evaluation tool for policy, systems, and environmental change (PSE) work within the food pantry setting.


Testing the HFPAT

The Healthy Food Pantry Assessment Project was designed in three phases.

  1. Phase one included in-depth semi-structured qualitative interviews with food pantry managers and EFNEP/ SNAP-Ed managers to determine current practices of the food assistance system within the 13 most western states and 4 territories of the USA.
  2. Phase two tested a draft pilot assessment tool and included site visits to food pantry sites by a researcher who completed on-site cognitive interviews of the assessment tool content.
  3. Phase three field tested the assessment tool for reliability at 30 different agencies. Testing was completed in seven states and final testing data was collected in August 2017.

The final product is an observational survey that is meant to be completed as the rater walks through the pantry or food bank, similar to how pantry clients walk through the pantry. The HFPAT provides a numeric score on a scale of 0-100. The closer to 100, the more aligned the pantry environment is to current healthy best practices of food pantries.


The scores are built into the survey tool. Most pantries score between 35 and 65 at the start of the process. In addition, and instruction manual and matched resource guide of best practice strategies are available on the main page for this tool (link). This tool can help pantries and their SNAP-Ed and EFNEP partners identify action areas for PSE interventions, and the tool can be used pre/post to assess change.