Healthy Food Pantries

Person putting food into a box.

Food pantries and distribution programs are a main source of food for some people in our communities. Food is a basic need for families and children that communities can help provide when fellow community members need assistance. Everyone deserves to have this basic need met with access to high quality, healthy foods.

Providing healthy foods at food pantries and distribution programs can decrease chronic disease, reduce health care costs for communities, increase brain development and learning for children and enable a dignifying experience for individuals and families seeking food assistance.

Having healthy food pantries helps establish health as a shared value in the community. Pantries can increase health by developing operations and policies that increase procurement of healthy food and aid clients in the selection and consumption of healthy food. Healthy food procurement can include strategic partnerships with food donors, farmers and gardeners, and grocery stores who will provide whole, healthy foods. Policies can be established to ensure healthy food procurement (i.e.: At least half of the grains donated need to be whole grains.

Every person deserves to choose health and healthy food for themselves and their families. There are enough resources for all people to access healthy, whole foods. Strategic partnerships, policies, and programs supporting how food is grown, procured and donated that can determine the healthfulness of available resources.


Completing a pantry self-assessment can provide key indicators for change, growth and achievement for pantries seeking to create a healthy experience for clients. Two pantry assessments are linked below. **Ask your local Extension office if they have trained staff to help you complete the assessments and to provide technical assistance as you set goals and work toward healthier pantry strategies.

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Pantry Assessments

  • NEFPAT Assessment
    Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Assessment Tool, or NEFPAT, is a validated environmental assessment that quantifies the nutrition environment of food pantries. The assessment makes it easy to identify how the food pantry promotes health via distribution practices, healthy marketing strategies, and policies/guidelines.
  • MyChoice Pantry Scorecard
    The MyChoice Pantry Scorecard is a 21-question tool that addresses the key areas of developing a client- choice pantry based on the MyPlate. The scorecard is meant to be a way to mark progress over the course of time rather than providing a specific grade.
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Donation Lists