Why the Safe & Healthy Food Pantries Project?

FoundationFoodSecurityThe number of individuals who rely on food pantries to meet their food needs has increased 64% in Wisconsin since 2007[1]. As more Wisconsinites turn to food pantries to meet their food needs, it is more important than ever that food pantries consider their role in supporting the health and well-being of their clients by working to improve the nutritional quality and safety of the foods they offer.

More than 1 in 9 Wisconsin households are food insecure, meaning they lack assured access to sufficient foods to support a healthy and active life[2]. Meanwhile 2 in 3 low-income Wisconsinites are overweight or obese and 1 in 10 has diagnosed diabetes[3]. Rising rates of obesity and diabetes in recent years have highlighted the burden of these diseases on society, and are calling for action across all community sectors.

Just as food pantries are critical to ensuring community food security, they are increasingly a key component of the local food environment for tens of thousands of low- income people in Wisconsin. A 2014 Feeding America Hunger Study found that nearly 2 in 3 households plan for charitable food assistance as a part of their monthly household budget[4]. This means that food pantries contribute significantly to the overall quality of foods that low-income individuals consume. Ensuring food security for all households requires a foundation of four strong legs: family economic security and well-being; adequate access to healthy and affordable food; use of federal nutrition programs; and access to emergency / charitable food safety net, which includes food pantries.

[1] Wisconsin Community Action Program Association TEFAP & Food Security Report. November 2014.

[2] Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Christian Gregory, and Anita Singh. Household Food Security in the United States in 2013, ERR-173, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2014

[3] Wisconsin Interactive Statistics on Health (WISH), 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Survey. WI Department of Health Services, Office of Health Informatics, Division of Public Health. Accessed at https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/wish/brfs/index.htm

[4] Feeding America Hunger in America 2014. Accessed online at http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/our-research/hunger-in-america/