Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Houston, Texas » Children's Nutrition Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #387530

Research Project: Preventing the Development of Childhood Obesity

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food distribution at emergency food assistance organizations in the Southwestern United States: A qualitative investigation

Author
item CASTRO, ALEXANDRA - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item WHITE, MAMIE - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item ISHDORJ, ARIUN - Texas A&M University
item Thompson, Deborah - Debbe
item DAVE, JAYNA - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)

Submitted to: Nutrients
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/26/2021
Publication Date: 11/26/2021
Citation: Castro, A.N., White, M.A., Ishdorj, A., Thompson, D.J., Dave, J.M. 2021. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food distribution at emergency food assistance organizations in the Southwestern United States: A qualitative investigation. Nutrients. 13(12):4267. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13124267.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13124267

Interpretive Summary: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much of our everyday lives – how we interact, how we shop, how we work. For food pantries and the people who visit them, the pandemic has meant a tremendous shift in not only the need, but how those programs are operating. The purpose of the study was to identify changes implemented in food distribution operations at emergency food assistance organizations (EFAOs) such as human service centers and food pantries during the COVID-19 pandemic in Houston Metro Area. Eighteen EFAOs as well as eight leadership staff from the Houston Food Bank participated in interviews and group discussion, respectively. Four major categories emerged from the qualitative work: safety measures adopted, changes in food distribution processes, changes in volunteerism and staffing, and changes in foods distributed. Findings from this study demonstrate susceptibilities in the EFAOs food distribution chain that need to be addressed to manage future crises more effectively.

Technical Abstract: This study aimed to identify changes in food distribution operations at emergency food assistance organizations (EFAOs) during the COVID-19 pandemic. EFAOs across the Houston metro area, TX (human service centers and food pantries) as well as the Houston Food Bank (HFB) participated in the qualitative study. Data were collected via individual semi-structured interviews and focus group (December 2020–February 2021), and coded using semi-structured thematic analysis. Categories were pre-identified based on the interview questions. Direct quotes supported subcategories. Directors from 18 EFAOs were interviewed; 8 HFB leadership staff participated in a focus group. Four major categories of change due to COVID-19 included new safety measures, changes in food distribution process, changes in volunteerism and staffing, and changes in amounts of food distributed. This study helps identify susceptibilities in EFAOs' food distribution chain should be addressed to manage future emergency food insecurity crises more effectively. An understanding of the changes/challenges incurred by EFAOs during the COVID-19 pandemic can inform policymakers to ensure local food distribution organizations are prepared to fill the needs during future a crisis of food insecurity.