Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Assessment Toolkit

University of Illinois


The Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Toolkit is a PSE change intervention designed to create pantry spaces where the healthy choice is the easy choice and that promote dignity and inclusivity. The toolkit includes site implementation materials that support pantries and technical assistance providers in carrying out small and large-scale interventions specific to 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 diverse pantry audiencesPantry-level interventions are meant to be low or no-cost. The toolkit includes the Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Assessment Tool (NEFPAT), a validated environmental assessment that quantifies the nutrition environment of food pantries. It also includes NEFPAT-user training materials.

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Food Insecurity/Food Assistance

Intervention Type: PSE Change

Intervention Reach and Adoption

NEFPAT targets food pantry clients across all demographics in stand-alone food pantries/banks, mobile pantries, and pantries in other settings (schools, faith-based, etc.) in rural and urban communities. In FY18, 88 Illinois pantries adopted at least 1 nutrition support (69.3%).In FY1985 pantries adopted at least 1 nutrition support with 403 total nutrition supports adopted across Illinois including 32 policy changes, 142 systems changes, 94 environmental changes, and 135 promotional efforts for a PSE change. 

Setting: Food Pantry Clients

Target Audience: Homeless/Food Pantry Clients

Race/Ethnicity: All

Intervention Components

Toolkit users complete an intervention in 5 phases. The recommended process for a Nutritious Food Pantry Environmental intervention includes 1) partner engagement and relationship building, 2) pre-assessment, 3) action planning, 4) intervention, and 5) post-assessment 4-6 months after the initial assessment. This cycle can continue until the pantry achieves sustainable practices. The toolkit includes NEFPAT training materials and resources for conducting a food pantry environmental assessment. These components provide the information needed to conduct NEFPAT assessments with fidelity and should remain intact. The completed NEFPAT pre-assessment and Technical Assistance & Resource Guide are used during the action planning stage. Implementation materials included in the Toolkit serve as supports for implementing PSE changes during the intervention phase.

Intervention Materials

Intervention materials are available on the web and include:

  • NEFPAT tool and training video/documents
  • Process and strategies map
  • Sample follow-up report and action plan
  • Technical Assistance Resource Guide
  • Implementation resources (English and Spanish), sample policies, flyers, shelf-talkers, produce handling/storage materials, healthy donation templates, food prep videos, photo recipes, etc.

Additional implementation materials are released as developed. A website to host resource is currently under construction.

Intervention Costs

Materials available at no cost.

Evidence Summary

The toolkit implementation materials are considered a practice-tested intervention (see Intervention Reach and Adoption and Evaluation Indicators sections for statistics in IL.)

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).

A follow-up publication in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior detailspre/post NEFPAT scores from the IL pilot and statewide food pantry intervention phases, 2016-2018 and 2017-2020 respectively. Matched pre/post assessments were analyzed to evaluate changes in pantry nutrition environments after the provision of technical assistance by SNAP-Ed staff who collected data from and provided technical assistance to food pantries in their geographic area. Six staff conducted all NEFPAT observations in the pilot phase and 35 staff assessed and assisted pantries in the statewide phase. In the pilot phase, two objectives on the NEFPAT observation increased significantly among 23 pantries with pre/post data. In the statewide phase, most NEFPAT objectives and the overall NEFPAT score (22.12 +/- 8.16 vs 28.20 +/- 7.14, p <0.001) significantly increased among 66 pantries with pre/post data. 

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 MT5 LT5
Sectors of Influence
  • ST5: Need and readiness 
    • ST5: 189 of pantry sites with documented readiness for change in PSE (2017 to current)
  • MT5: Nutrition Supports 
    • MT5: 1488 nutrition supports adopted in Illinois 
    • MT5a: 253 pantries that adopted at least 1 PSE change in Illinois (2017 to present)
    • MT5b: policy changes in Illinois (2017 to present)
    • MT5c: 592 systems changes in Illinois (2017 to current)
    • MT5e: 770 environmental changes in Illinois (2017 to current)
  • LT5c: 71 pantries show improved NEFPAT scores and made a least one PSE change (2017 to current)

Evaluation Materials

This toolkit utilizes the Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Assessment Tool to capture PSE changes in food pantries. A NEFPAT post-assessment is conducted 4-6 months after the pre-assessment and initial intervention period. Repeat NEFPAT assessments can be completed to evaluate additional intervention periods until sustainability is achieved.  

Success Story

Additional Information

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

Contact Person:

Caitlin Kownacki – Senior Program Lead