Publication date: Feb 01, 2024
Food pantries are a resource for those experiencing food insecurity. The purpose of this study was to evaluate changes in food pantry utilization and volunteerism for a food pantry network during the COVID-19 pandemic. This 36-month longitudinal, observational study is a secondary analysis of data collected from an Ohio food pantry network. Participants were clients of a food pantry network. The data represent visits from 12 months prepandemic (March 2019 through February 2020), during the pandemic (March 2020 through February 2021), and after vaccines were readily available (March 2021 through February 2022). Each data point represents a visit to the pantry network. The main outcome measures were total, returning, and new visits (ie, households that had not previously used this pantry network). The secondary outcome was volunteer hours by month. In order to account for month-to-month variability in pantry utilization, the data were analyzed using a time-series linear regression analysis with the month as the unit of analysis. A total of 174,397 visits were recorded during the course of 36 months. Sixty-nine percent of reporting household members were female, 48% reported at least 1 senior in the home, and 41% reported at least 1 child at home. There was no significant change in total or returning visits during the pandemic or after vaccines were available compared with prepandemic levels. However, there was a significant increase in new households to the food pantry network during the pandemic compared with prepandemic (P = .05). Volunteer hours decreased significantly during the pandemic compared with prepandemic months and remained low even after vaccines were available (P = .004 and P = .003, respectively). Although there was an increase in households new to the food pantry, overall utilization did not increase.
|Emergency food assistance