Patient experiences and provider perspectives on a hospital-based food pantry: a mixed methods evaluation study


Objective: The purpose of this evaluation study was to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement in programme functioning and common aspects of patients’ experiences at a hospital-based food pantry.

Design: Semi-structured, in-depth interviews with patients and a cross-sectional survey for providers were used. Interview transcripts were coded using both inductive and deductive approaches and assessed for inter-rater reliability. Descriptive statistics were produced from quantitative data.

Setting: An academic urban safety-net hospital in the Northeastern US offering inpatient and outpatient services.

Participants: Thirty patients and 89 providers.

Results: Patients expressed feeling comfortable, trusting the food, high satisfaction with food quality, convenience, and lack of stigma at the hospital-based pantry. Patients mentioned the pantry helped them eat more fruits and vegetables, but expressed concerns about the healthfulness of other foods distributed. Providers believed they should discuss food insecurity (FI) with patients (99 %) and that the pantry improves the health of patients (97 %), but faced barriers to consistently screening for FI and referring patients to the pantry, such as insufficient training on FI (53 %) and time constraints (35 %).

Conclusions: Findings suggest hospital-based food pantries may have several advantages. Hospitals with onsite food pantries must work to eliminate barriers to FI screening and pantry referral. To optimize their impact, such pantries should develop nutritional guidelines for food donations and connect patients with nutrition education resources. Future research should examine health outcomes for patients using hospital-based food pantries