Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Assessment Tool

University of Illinois


The Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Assessment Tool (NEFPAT) is a PSE change intervention that includes a food pantry environmental assessment designed to quantify the nutrition environment of food pantries and promote the adoption of healthy food pantry best practices. NEFPAT users complete the intervention in 5 phases: partner engagement, assessment, action planning, intervention, and re-assessment. Users identify potential pantry partners and develop a strong partner relationship. Users find a baseline score by determining the pantry’s strengths and areas of improvement for its nutrition environment. Pantry personnel and NEFPAT users then collaboratively customize small or large-scale action plans that address food distribution styles, pantry layout, promotion techniques of healthful foods, variety of fruits and vegetables available, accessibility of information about community resources, and meeting the needs of a diverse pantry audience. NEFPAT includes suggested best practices for these categories to create a pantry environment that promotes dignity and inclusivity, and a space that makes the healthy choice, the easy choice.

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Food Insecurity/Food Assistance

Intervention Type: PSE Change

Intervention Reach and Adoption

NEFPAT targets food pantry clients of all demographics in stand-alone food pantries/banks, mobile pantries, and pantries in other settings (schools, faith-based, etc.) in rural and urban communities. NEFPAT developers used 3 strategies to ensure the tool was appropriate and met the needs of the audience; a comprehensive literature review, SNAP-Ed field testing with feedback from pantry personnel, and expert content review. This process ensured the NEFPAT is relevant to a variety of pantry and client needs, acceptable to field implementers, and not cumbersome to pantry operations. In FY18, 88 pantries adopted at least 1 nutrition support (69.3%). 

Setting: Food Pantry Clients

Target Audience: Homeless/Food Pantry Clients

Race/Ethnicity: All

Intervention Components

NEFPAT includes training materials and tools for conducting a food pantry environmental assessment. These intervention components provide the capacity needed to conduct NEFPAT assessments with fidelity and should remain intact. The accompanying resource guide/implementation materials serve as supports for implementing PSE changes. Field implementers can execute action plans without referencing the guide and other documents. The recommended process for a complete NEFPAT intervention includes 1) partner engagement/relationship building, 2) assessment, 3) action planning, 4) intervention, and 5) re-assessment 4-6 months after the initial assessment. This cycle can continue until the pantry has achieved sustainable practices. Using the NEFPAT without developing an action plan in collaboration with pantry partners is unlikely to lead to meaningful PSE change. Agencies wishing to adopt NEFPAT can coordinate with University of Illinois Extension staff for data input and evaluation.

Intervention Materials

NEFPAT intervention materials are available on the website and include:

  • NEFPAT tool
  • Training video/documents
  • Process/strategies map
  • Sample follow-up report/action plan
  • Technical assistance resource guide
  • Supplementary resources (sample pantry policies, flyers, shelf-talkers, produce handling/storage materials, healthy donation templates, food prep videos, etc.)

Additional implementation materials will be released as developed. A website that will host resource and implementation materials is currently under construction.

Intervention Costs

Materials available at no cost.

Evidence Summary

In a peer-reviewed Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior publication, the NEFPAT was found to be a content valid and interrater reliable instrument for evaluating the food pantry nutrition environment. The overall tool and each of its objectives had high content validity when evaluated by emergency food experts. The average rating of each objective was 3.9 out of 4.0, ± 0.1. Interviews with pilot-testers indicated NEFPAT was positively received and a valuable asset in the field. Pilot-testers suggested minor changes to increase clarity and collect pantry characteristics. Pilot-testers found that observations took ~20–30 minutes to complete, with additional time for pantry engagement. Developers determined that inter-rater reliability for NEFPAT was above the strong threshold (>0.7). Among partnership pantries, 69.3% adopted at least 1 PSE change in FY 17-18.

Evidence-based Approach: Research-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)
Environmental Settings ST5, ST7 MT5 LT5
Sectors of Influence
  • ST5a: Total number of trainings held for pantry staff/volunteers on PSE interventions in FY 17-18 reached 300 personnel
  • ST5b: 10.6% of new pantry sites partnering with SNAP-Ed for PSE interventions in FY 17-18
  • ST5b: 69.3% of pantry sites with documented readiness for change (NEFPAT assessment conducted)
  • ST7: 18.4% of PSE pantry partnerships in Illinois in FY 17-18
  • MT5: 276 nutrition supports adopted in Illinois in FY 17-18
  • MT5a: 69.3% of pantries that adopted at least 1 PSE change in Illinois in FY 17-18
  • MT5b: 8.7% of policy changes in Illinois in FY 17-18
  • MT5c: 37.7% systems changes in Illinois in FY 17-18
  • MT5e: 26.8% environmental changes in Illinois in FY 17-18
  • MT5f: 45,328 potential persons encountering/influenced by PSE change in Illinois in FY 17-18
  • LT5a: 52.3% of Illinois pantries implementing a multi-component, multi-level intervention in FY 17-18
  • LT5c: 56.8% of pantries showing improved NEFPAT scores and made a least one PSE change in FY 17-18

Evaluation Materials

Evaluation materials used in the pilot phase of NEFPAT include content review and field-testing interview questions. The NEFPAT itself is an evaluation tool evaluating PSE changes in food pantries. A NEFPAT post-assessment is conducted after 4-6 months pass from the pre-assessment and initial intervention period. Subsequent NEFPAT assessments can be completed to evaluate impact over time.

Additional Information

Website: The NEFPAT website includes training, assessment, and implementation materials for NEFPAT.

Contact Person:

Caitlin Kownacki