Meal kits and recipe tastings increase healthy food selections among food pantry clients

March 19, 2019

Hartford, Conn. - Food pantry clients are more likely to select whole grains and leafy greens when they are arranged with all ingredients needed to make a meal, reports a new study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.

Nearly 40 million Americans face hunger, and many rely on the food banking system to supplement the groceries needed to feed themselves and their families. Consequently, it is essential to maximize the nutritional quality of food available through food pantries. At the same time, it is also important to encourage food pantry clients to select the healthier options.

"We knew that pantries in our area were providing healthier foods, but we also understood that these items might need additional promotion for clients to select them. So, as we watched meal kits take off as a popular food preparation trend, we became interested to see whether a low-cost version could serve as an attractive and convenient method for increasing healthy food selection," said study co-author Emma Stein.

The study, published in Public Health Nutrition, was conducted in a "client choice" food pantry, meaning clients could visit once a month and select the foods they wanted from the shelves based on personal preference and family size. To create the meal kit, a local chef developed two different low-cost recipes featuring whole grains and kale. The pantry was open three days a week - one day each week both recipes were prepared for clients to taste, and all of the ingredients were available together in a bundle. Another day each week, the recipes were prepared and available to taste, but the ingredients were available only on the shelves as usual. On the third day, the pantry operated as usual - the ingredients were available on the shelves, but there was not a prepared recipe to taste.

Findings indicate that clients were three times as likely to take kale and whole grains when they visited the pantry on days when recipe tastings and meal kits were available, compared to the days when neither was provided. In addition, including the meal kit with the recipe tasting doubled kale and whole grain selection when compared to providing the tasting alone. There also appeared to be a spillover effect from the meal kits - many clients selected additional brown rice and kale from the shelves, perhaps to prepare a larger portion.

Senior author of the study and Rudd Center Director, Marlene Schwartz, notes that "although providing recipes and tastings helps clients see how an unfamiliar food can be prepared, taking the extra step of putting together all of the ingredients into a bundle makes it that much more convenient for them to choose the healthier options that are offered. If we can provide these products in a way that we know will increase their selection, we are giving each client and their family the best opportunity to eat more healthfully."
-end-
About the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut is a multidisciplinary center dedicated to promoting solutions to childhood obesity, poor diet, and weight bias through research and policy.

For more information, visit http://www.uconnruddcenter.org, follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/UConnRuddCenter, or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/UConnRuddCenter.

UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

Related Food Articles from Brightsurf:

Brain region tracking food preferences could steer our food choices
Researchers discovered that a specific brain region monitors food preferences as they change across thirsty and quenched states.

Rates of food insecurity remain high despite expansion of NYC food assistance programs
In the latest COVID-19 tracking survey from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy conducted from September 25 to 27, 34% of the sample of one thousand New York City adults reported that their households had received SNAP benefits since September 1st, 2020.

Food mechanics recipe to serve up healthy food that lasts
Researchers are investigating the science of food drying to design faster, cheaper and better ways to store food.

Economic and food supply chain disruptions endanger global food security
COVID-19 has led to a global economic slowdown that is affecting all four pillars of food security - availability, access, utilization, and stability.

'Building wealth and health network' reduces food insecurity without providing food
As the coronavirus pandemic forces so many to reckon with growing food insecurity and increased health challenges, the Building Wealth and Health Network program of Drexel University's Center for Hunger-Free Communities is reducing food insecurity and improving mental health - without distributing any food or medicine.

Novel DNA analysis will help to identify food origin and counterfeit food in the future
Estonian scientists are developing a DNA-based method of analysis that enables them to identify food components and specify the origin of a foodstuff.

Holders of negative opinions towards GM food likely to be against other novel food tech
Scientists at NTU Singapore and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health have found that people who hold negative opinions of genetically-modified (GM) food are likely to feel the same about nano-enabled food -- food with nano-additives to enhance flavor, nutrition or prolong shelf life.

UMD researchers seek to reduce food waste and establish the science of food date labeling
Minimizing food waste is top of mind right now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Territorial short food supply chains foster food democracy and sustainability
A University of Cordoba study analyzed the governance mechanisms in territorial short food supply chains in Córdoba and Bogotá.

First study on human-grade dog food says whole, fresh food is highly digestible
some pet food companies are developing diets that more closely resemble human food, incorporating human-grade meat and vegetable ingredients that pass USDA quality inspections.

Read More: Food News and Food Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.