Nutritional Profiling Systems: Can They Be Implemented in Subsidiary Food Pantries for Reducing Nutrient Deficiencies Among the Elderly?

Rebecca L. Walker
Olivet Nazarene University

Full manuscript:

Abstract: Learning Outcomes: Identify the nutritional adequacy of food pantry boxes and recognize the potential of nutrition profiling to reduce nutrient deficiencies in the elderly.

Background: The elderly food pantry client (> 60 years old) has increased risk for nutrient-related deficiencies due to a reduced intake of macronutrients, Iron, Calcium, and Vitamins A and C.

Methods: This mixed method design examined the presence of nutritional profiling systems in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), two regional food banks, and three subsidiary food pantries through six interviews and a 10-question survey with each facility director. The pantries were selected for their designation as a full or partially client-choice food pantry. Additionally, a nutritional analysis of a sample of 10 boxes from each pantry and 1 box from the CSFP (total n=31) was completed using MyPlate Supertracker.

Results: Two themes emerged from the data: first, nutritional profiling was not a system in use and, second, there is a desire to implement a system if the regional food banks create it. The nutritional analysis sample provided an average of 102 percent of carbohydrates, 66 percent of protein, 45 percent of fat, 34 percent of Calcium, 131 percent of Iron, 47 percent of Vitamin A, and 34 percent of Vitamin C of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for an elderly male client.

Conclusion: These findings indicate that nutrition profiling is not currently utilized, but pantries are interested in utilizing a system if provided by food banks. Because this study was exploratory, results cannot be generalized without further research.

Introduction: The elderly food pantry client is at higher risk for a nutrient-related disease state than the general population (Kamp, Wellman, & Russell, 2009). These clients are often food insecure and must rely on the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) to provide a portion of their nutritional needs. The CSFP is a federal program that distributes shelf stable milk, grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables monthly to individuals over the age of 60 and to pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women. Although these boxes may help reduce hunger, they do not provide adequate nutrition for an elderly adult. Consequently, many elderly adults turn to their local food pantries to increase their food supply. For many food pantry clients, it is difficult to determine the healthfulness of their foods. They may have insufficient time to read nutritional labels while they are choosing their food items, or they may not have the knowledge to understand the food labels. Many subsidiary food pantries lack a nutrient profiling or ranking system by which clients can determine the healthfulness of their products. A nutrient profiling system is a tool that calculates the nutritional quality of a food product and ranks it as a good, better, or best choice. It is designed to increase the nutritional quality of foods consumed by pantry clients and provide an indicator of progress toward the food bank’s nutrition goals. The author of this study predicted the food pantries included desire to implement a nutritional profiling system in order to increase the nutritional quality of their products. Additionally, it is undetermined what nutrients these subsidiary food pantry boxes provide on a consistent basis. As a result, it is unknown what percentage of an elderly participant’s nutritional needs are met through the foods that are contained within the pantry boxes.

Read the full manuscript: