Food Pantry Client Research

Across the United States, food pantries are a part of the food safety net for approximately 5 million people who face the threat of hunger. In Missouri, over 700,000 people are served annually through hunger relief agencies found in every county of the state.

In the summer of 2013, the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security once again conducted in-depth personal interviews with approximately 1200 clients of food pantries in the central and northeast Missouri region. The goal if of this research is to gain a better understanding of the health, economic, and food security status of households who use food pantries so that better services and policies can be designed to help struggling families. Coping with Hunger, 2013, provides the methodology, data, and survey instrument used to conduct this research.

Past research conducted in 2010 by the Center shows that households using food pantries face a number of challenges. Key findings form the report Regional Profile of Missouri Food Pantry Clients and Households (January 2013) include the following:

  • Health Vulnerabilities: Food pantry clients are more likely to be diabetic, have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, or be obese, compared to state averages.
  • Food Insecurity: 39% of food pantry clients experience food insecurity with hunger; 37% experience food insecurity without hunger.
  • Tradeoffs: Approximately half of food pantry clients have to choose between buying food and paying for medicine or medical treatment, utilities, rent or a mortgage, or gas.

The Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security has a long history of partnering with food pantries. In addition to the research conducted in 2013, the Center also surveyed food pantry clients in the summers of 2005 and 2010. Combined, this research will provide a longitudinal look at the status of food pantry clients spanning nearly a decade. Grow Well Missouri, an outreach project that partners with food pantries to provide food gardening resources directly to food pantry clients, is an ongoing effort to help address the health disparities identified through the Center’s research.


Regional Profile of Missouri Food Pantry Clients and Households, January 2013 (published in conjunction with the Institute of Public Policy at the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri)

Coping with Hunger, 2013 (full report from the 2013 survey, including data tables and survey instrument)

Coping with Hunger, 2010 (full report from the 2010 survey, including data tables and survey instrument)

Coping With Hunger, 2005 (full report from the 2005 survey, including data tables and survey instrument)