Relationship between local food environment and reliance on food pantries: insights from a statewide client survey in Minnesota

Harshada Karnik, Hikaru Peterson, Laura Bohen, Caitlin Caspi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim: Food pantries are a vital component of the emergency food environment in the United States; however, little is known about how low-income households use food pantries in relation to the food retail outlets located around them. This study investigated the relationship between the food environment (characterized by the number of retail stores around food pantries and the local cost of food) and the reliance on food pantries among their clients. Subject and methods: The analysis draws on data from a statewide survey conducted in 2017 among food pantry clients (n = 4267) in Minnesota. We documented the characteristics of food pantry clients and food retail establishments around them and the relationship between food pantry usage and the retail food environment using logistic regressions. Results: We found that high reliance on food pantries was positively associated with the area-level cost of food (OR = 1.16, p < 0.01) and negatively associated with the number of food retail outlets around the food pantries (OR = 0.98, p < 0.01). Conclusion: Our findings confirm food pantries are filling a gap in food access and the retail food environment and serve as a steady source of food for their clients. Findings suggest the need to reconsider food pantry offerings, particularly in locations where they fill the void left by food retail stores to serve clients adequately.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Public Health (Germany)
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2024.


  • Emergency food assistance
  • Food access
  • Food insecurity
  • Food pantries
  • Food retail establishments
  • Low-income households


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