Tech Equity Applied to Food Systems| Volume 54, ISSUE 7, SUPPLEMENT , S9, July 2022

O17 Current Use and Demand for Digital Tools to Enhance Food Pantry Management: Findings from a Nationwide Survey

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      Food insecurity has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by critical limitations and unparalleled needs at food pantries. Interconnectivity between food pantry staff and clients is vital to food security. Digital tools are widely used in public health; however, little is known about current use or desire for digital tools in food pantry settings.


      To define types of digital tools currently used for pantry management and identify gaps and interest in specific digital tool features to enhance pantry management.

      Study Design, Setting, Participants

      A cross-sectional online survey of U.S. food pantries was disseminated from January-May 2022. Using the database, every tenth food pantry in each state was recruited via email and asked to complete the survey via Google Forms. The response rate was 27.4% (n=283/1,032). Most respondents (64.5%) identified as food pantry directors.

      Measurable Outcome/Analysis

      Descriptive statistics were used to characterize pantry location, size (pounds of food distributed), number of staff and volunteers (SV), use of a client choice model, and to describe the current tools used by pantries for multiple aspects of management.


      A majority (54.8%) of respondents represented large food pantries. Pantry-specific digital applications were rarely used. Instead, respondents reported using word-of-mouth and email to recruit SV, phone calls and emails for SV scheduling, and in-person classes for SV trainings. Clients were most often contacted via phone or email. There was high demand for an app for SV scheduling (50.2%), providing a safe, remote version of client choice (42.4%), client registration (35.7%), client and SV communications (35.0%), and connecting with nearby emergency services (22.3%).


      Food pantry directors desired an app to support SV management, SV and client communication, safe client choice, and connection to emergency services. Future app development to enhance food pantry management and optimize food distribution is greatly needed.