Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Elizabeth Anderson Steeves

Committee Members

Katie Kavanagh, Marsha Spence


Objective: To ascertain how food pantry users perceive their use of food pantries and how the food pantry fits into the broader scope of food acquisition among rural Appalachian households.Design: Using a grounded theory approach, semi-structured interviews with food pantry users were conducted in-person and over-the-phone. Verbatim interview transcripts were uploaded into NVivo 11.4 software for thematic analysis and theory formulation. Demographic data were collected via survey.Setting: Rural Appalachian food pantries.Subjects: Participants (n=20) were predominately female (80%) and Caucasian (95%) with a mean age of 48 years (+SD= 13.4) with experience using food pantries in rural Appalachia.Results: Food pantry users reported consistently acquiring food from the grocery store, food pantry, and family and friends. Reciprocal, informal, food-sharing networks were common. Factors such as lack of transportation, uncontrollable factors, and insufficient food quantity depleted food resources. Food stretching, refusing to waste food, using money-saving strategies, and the overall acceptability of food pantry food enhanced food resources. Food pantry users reported having to “make it work” when food resources were low.Conclusions: Food pantries are a consistent food source for those who use them. Food pantry users are savvy with their resources and employ multiple strategies to maintain their food supply despite high levels of food insecurity. While most members in the sample were pleased with their food pantry experiences, areas remain to improve the food pantry experience while promoting adequate nutrition.

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