Food Pantries and Food Banks


To make healthier choices, Illinois families need to have access to more nutritious food and drink options.

Illinois Nutrition Education Programs works closely with many food pantries and food banks to help make this a reality. In 2022, we partnered with 212 locations where Illinois families shop for food, with 80% being food pantries and food banks, to help nudge families towards healthier choices.


Our programming can be tailored to your location.

Completing a Nutrition Education Food Pantry Assessment Tool (NEFPAT) to help guide towards creating a healthier pantry environment. INEP team members can complete the assessment and help you create an action plan to help guide clients to healthier options. Action plans may include healthy marketing materials, such as posters, shelf-talkers, or recipes.

  • Providing hands-on nutrition education focused on eating healthier foods and cooking on a budget.
  • Providing professional development training for employees or volunteers
Nutrition Education Offerings

  • Eat.Move.Save. Booths: Eat. Move. Save. booths are more than just your typical information table; they are engaging and fun! Topics range from healthy snacks ideas to how to prepare some of the food that might be buried deep in the pantry or taking up space in the fridge. Handouts, recipes, and taste tests may also be available.
  • Adult classes: For adults, three curricula options are available for engaging lessons on healthy lifestyle choices: Healthy Cents, MyPlate for My Family, and Create Better Health. Our team members can help you determine the right curriculum for your location and audience.
    • Healthy Cents is a curriculum for adults designed to teach how to save more money while making healthy food choices. Each lesson provides a connection to food budgeting along with the nutrition topic. One example is a lesson on starting a container garden for vegetables and herbs.
    • MyPlate for My Family is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and designed for adults who are parents or caregivers to youth ages 2 to 18.
    • Create Better Health is a curriculum designed to teach adults how to use foods on hand to make nourishing meals. Topics include food budgeting, nutrition, physical activity, and cooking demonstrations.

Food Bank Health and Nutrition Assessment

The Food Bank Health and Nutrition Assessment, or FB-HANA, helps food banks and technical assistance providers gain new insights about health and nutrition strategies and identify areas for growth in organizational practices and policies. Click on the link below to complete the assessment!

Completing the FB-HANA takes about 60-90 minutes and is ideally done in a pre- and post-assessment format so progress can be measured over time. Results from the pre-assessment can be used to identify areas of opportunity and guide short, medium, and long-term action planning and goal setting. The appropriate timing of the post-assessment depends on the level and scope of changes in the action plan, the amount of time needed to implement changes, and the pace at which changes are incorporated into the organization. It is recommended that post-assessments occur no sooner than 6-9 months after implementation begins. It would not be unreasonable for this time to extend past 12 months, given the depth of work and size of the organization.

Links and resources

  • FB-HANA assessment can be found at
  • FB-HANA report template can be accessed on our Downloads page
  • Sample action plan (coming soon to Downloads)
  • Nutrition policy templates (coming soon to Downloads)
  • Success stories can be found on our Their Stories page

For additional implementation and support resources consider referring to Feeding America's Nutrition in Food Banking Toolkit.

Development details

The FB-HANA was developed based on a literature review and guidance from professionals and content experts in the charitable food system. The tool was pilot-tested before being reviewed by an expert panel for content validity, and finally tested in Illinois for interrater and test-retest reliability. A manuscript with full details of the development and evaluation of the FB-HANA is in development.

For inquiries about research collaborations and using FB-HANA in the field, please contact Caitlin Kownacki at

Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Assessment Tool

The Nutrition Environment Food Pantry Assessment Tool, or NEFPAT, is an environmental assessment that can be used in food pantries. The assessment allows users to easily identify how the food pantry promotes health via distribution practices, healthy marketing strategies, and policies/guidelines. The tool evaluates food distribution styles, promotion of healthful foods, variety of fruits and vegetables available, access to information about community resources, and meeting the needs of a diverse clientele. Users complete the 30-60 minute assessment and collaborate with pantry staff to develop an action plan based on the completed NEFPAT. Users complete a nutrition focused food pantry intervention in five phases: partner engagement, assessment, action plan, intervention, and re-assessment. Compare pre- and post- assessment scores to measure improvements in the food pantry over time.

Implementation resources including training materials, an implementation resource guide, and supporting field materials are available on our Downloads page. For other implementation resources (English and Spanish), sample policies, flyers, shelf-talkers, produce handling/storage materials, healthy donation templates, food prep videos, photo recipes, etc., please email us at

Development details

The NEFPAT was developed based on a literature review and guidance from professionals working with food pantries. The tool was pilot tested before being reviewed by an expert panel for content validity, and finally tested in Illinois for interrater reliability. Additional details about the development and evaluation of the NEFPAT can be found in a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior at:

Current version

The current version distributed by University of Illinois Extension has been updated from the original version. Specifically, the order of the strategies listed has been streamlined for ease of use in the field. In addition, a graphic designer has made cosmetic changes. The NEFPAT is currently in a review phase. An updated version is expected to be released in winter 2022.

For inquiries about research collaborations and using NEFPAT in the field, please contact us at 

Illinois Farm to Food Bank Program Report

University of Illinois SNAP-Education is a contributing partner of the Illinois Farm to Food Bank Program, an initiative whose goal is to build a long lasting, sustainable system creating a relationship of farms working directly with food banks to increase food access, economic dollars within the state, profitability for Illinois farmers, community revitalization and reduce food waste. In contribution to the initiative, University of Illinois Extension SNAP-Education conducted food pantry manager focus groups in July of 2021 to learn about the challenges and opportunities of distributing fresh foods in Illinois food pantries.

Findings from the focus groups pointed to four broad themes:

  1. Food pantry sourcing strategies and contextual factors;
  2. Food pantry challenges and barriers to fresh food distribution;
  3. Facilitators of fresh food distribution in food pantries; and
  4. Next steps and opportunities to improve fresh food distribution.

To view or download the full report click on the Downloads page. For questions or inquiries about the project, please contact contact us at