Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of



Suzanne Stluka

Date of this Version



BMC Public Health (2018) 18:1055


© The Author(s).

Open access


Background: Rural communities experience unique barriers to food access when compared to urban areas and food security is a public health issue in rural, high poverty communities. A multi-leveled socio-ecological intervention to develop food policy councils (FPCs), and improve food security in rural communities was created. Methods to carry out such an intervention were developed and are described.

Methods: A longitudinal, matched treatment and comparison study was conducted in 24 rural, high poverty counties in South Dakota, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio. Counties were assigned to a treatment (n = 12) or comparison (n = 12) group. Intervention activities focus on three key components that impact food security: 1) community coaching by Extension Educators/field staff, 2) FPC development, and 3) development of a MyChoice food pantry. Community coaching was only provided to intervention counties. Evaluation components focus on three levels of the intervention: 1) Community (FPCs), 2) Food Pantry Organization, and 3) Pantry Client & Families. Participants in this study were community stakeholders, food pantry directors, staff/volunteers and food pantry clients. Pantry food access/availability including pantry food quality and quantity, household food security and pantry client dietary intake are dependent variables.

Discussion: The results of this study will provide a framework for utilizing a multi-leveled socio-ecological intervention with the purpose of improving food security in rural, high poverty communities. Additionally, the results of this study will yield evidence-based best practices and tools for both FPC development and the transition to a guided-client choice model of distribution in food pantries.