Food Smarts

Leah's Pantry


Food Smarts is a direct education intervention that is designed to support healthy behavior change in the areas of healthy eating, food safety, cooking, food waste reduction and food resource management. In 2022, Leah’s Pantry released an updated version of Food Smarts that incorporates principles of trauma-informed nutrition.  Food Smarts is a flexible, learner-centered, multi-session nutrition and cooking program with several available lesson plans to fit the needs of a variety of settings. A kitchen is not required for the implementation of the intervention, but participants can be engaged in simple recipe preparation as an instructional strategy. The adult curriculum of Food Smarts is available in English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean. The youth curriculum is available in English.  

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating  
Intervention Type: Direct Education 

Intervention Reach and Adoption

Food Smarts for Adults was developed by working with parents living in long term transitional housing shelters, adults living in affordable housing communities throughout CA, and clients of charitable food distributions in San Francisco. The youth curriculum was developed with youth living in affordable housing communities and attending out-of-school programs, representing different backgrounds and ages. Food Smarts workshops can be facilitated anywhere where direct education is appropriate. Over 15,000 unduplicated participants have graduated from Food Smarts workshops series over the past 13 years. Several hundred staff have been trained at partner sites via the Food Smarts Training Program to enable continuation of the intervention.  

Setting: Community (Live), Faith-based community, Food pantries, Health care, School (Learn), USDA program sites (not National School Lunch Program) 
Target Audience: Elementary School, Middle School, High School, Pregnant/Breastfeeding Women, Parents/Mothers/Fathers, Adults, Older Adults, Homeless/Food Pantry Clients 
Race/Ethnicity: All 

Intervention Components

Food Smarts includes the following core components: instructor guides, participant workbooks, and participant pre/post surveys. These intervention components provide the facilitation framework, lesson plans, activities, participant materials, and outcome evaluations. There are a variety of lesson plan groups (four-week, five-week, or six-week) and lesson lengths (30, 60, or 90 minutes), allowing implementing partners the discretion to choose which option meets the needs of their clients/agency. Also included in the Instructor guide is a curriculum fidelity handout that outlines types of modifications, guidance for those modifications, examples, and evaluation requirements. Partners must be trained via the in-person or web-based Food Smarts Training Program in order to implement the series. After which, they can implement on their own time. Leah’s Pantry offers technical assistance to support implementation. Partners will be expected to sign a Partner Agreement, as well as share any evaluation data collected. 

Intervention Materials

Intervention materials for Food Smarts:  

  • Food Smarts Adult Workbook (available in English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese  
  • Food Smarts Instructor GuideAdult (English)  
  • Food Smarts Kids Workbook (English)  
  • Food Smarts Instructor Guide: Kids (English)  
  • Food Smarts for Food Waste (English) 

More information about above mentioned resources visit:  

Intervention Costs

There is a cost for training in most cases but often the state agency funds training for local implementers. Once an agency is trained, digital access to curriculum materials is free. Printed workbooks and instructor guides may be ordered from Leah’s Pantry or at a cost. 

Print copies of the participant workbooks and accompanying instructor guides can be purchased through our website. Costs vary, please see website for updated prices.  

Evidence Summary

Outcome evaluations demonstrate statistically significant improvement in short- and medium-term healthy eating indicators. Per our FY 2017 outcome evaluation, participants reported statistically significant changes in: 

  • Using MyPlate to make food choices  
  • Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption  
  • Eating more than one kind of vegetable  
  • Decreasing sugary beverage consumption

Our FY15 and FY16 evaluations also demonstrate statistically significant changes in food safety and resource management.  

Evidence-based Approach: Practice-tested 

Evaluation Indicators

Based on the SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework, the following outcome indicators can be used to evaluate intervention progress and success.

Readiness and Capacity – Short Term (ST) Changes – Medium Term (MT) Effectiveness and Maintenance – Long Term (LT) Population Results (R)
Individual MT1
Environmental Settings
Sectors of Influence

MT1: Healthy Eating 

  • MT1dAte more than one kind of vegetable (p=0.038) 
  • MT1fUsed MyPlate to make food choices (p=0.044) 
  • MT1hDecreased sugary beverage consumption (p=0.001) 
  • MTl: Increased fruit consumption (p=0.00) 
  • MT1mIncreased vegetable consumption (p=0.002) 

Evaluation Materials

Evaluation materials include pre- and post-questionnaires for both the youth and adult curricula. 

Additional Information

Website: The Leah’s Pantry website (www.leahspantry.orgincludes more on Food Smarts and other programs developed by Leah’s Pantry.  

Contact Person(s):
Carrie Richerson
Director of Training, Leah’s Pantry
Phone: 650-379-4795


*Updated as of August 28, 2023