Perceived barriers to client-choice conversion among Arkansas food pantries




Food Pantry, Food Insecurity, Client-Choice Pantry, Food Bank


Food insecurity continues to be a problem in the U.S., especially in Arkansas, which ranked second in the nation in food-insecure households in 2020 (Arkansas Food Bank, n.d.). To help address this, community-based food pantries make food avail­able directly to area residents. Food pantry demand has increased during COVID-19, which has exacer­bated food insecurity, particularly in the southern U.S. In Arkansas, the Arkansas Food Bank (AFB) serves as the state’s largest nongovernmental food aid provider, working with 310 pantries.

Pantries typically distribute food to clients in one of two ways: by using a prefilled bag or box of items (the traditional model), or by allowing clients to select items (the client-choice model). Although research has shown that the client-choice model has a variety of benefits for client health and well­being, pantries using the traditional model remain the norm in Arkansas, accounting for 87% of total pantries. Currently, there is limited research that identifies perceived barriers to converting to a client-choice model among pantry managers, and that identifies whether perceived barriers and local­ized concerns contribute to different operation styles among pantries. To address this, we exam­ined perceived barriers to client-choice conversion using a mixed-method survey conducted with 187 Arkansas food pantry managers.

We used common factor analysis to identify four barriers perceived by pantries to converting their traditional pantry to a client-choice pantry: (1) food supply concerns, (2) having limited non­food resources, (3) food waste concerns, and (4) confu­sion from clients and nutritional concerns. A cluster analysis of pantry respondents was also used, based on their level of concern for the four identified perceived barriers. Clusters we identified are Potential Converters (18.2%), Confusion Concerned pantries (56.7%), and pantries who are Skeptics (25.1%). Our findings suggest that food pantry stakeholders may need additional outreach and education concerning the various ways that client choice can be implemented. Our results pro­vide valuable information for those involved in dis­tributing food aid to food-insecure households.


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Author Biographies

Kathryn A. Carroll, University of Central Arkansas

PhD; Assistant Professor, Nutrition and Family Sciences

Rachel Schichtl, University of Central Arkansas

PhD, RDN; Assistant Professor, Nutrition and Family Sciences



How to Cite

Carroll, K., & Schichtl, R. (2022). Perceived barriers to client-choice conversion among Arkansas food pantries. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 11(4), 153–164.