Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 423–431 | Cite as

Balancing Household Needs: The Non-food Needs of Food Pantry Clients and Their Implications for Program Planning

  • Barbara H. FieseEmail author
  • Brenda Davis Koester
  • Elaine Waxman
Brief Communication


In 2009, over 33 million different people used food pantries to supplement their basic food needs. Food pantries are increasingly called upon to provide non-food items. What is unknown is how going without basic household products affects families. This exploratory study aimed to identify personal household products food pantry clients are most likely to find essential for basic living, the consequences for going without, and strategies to procure basic products. Twenty-five food pantry clients were interviewed. Three classes of products were identified: survival, keep the household together, and “make do” products. Consequences of going without basic products include stress, personal degradation, and engaging in illegal activities. Program recommendations include distribution planning and incorporating an awareness of different family coping strategies.


Family coping Food insecurity Food pantries 



This research was supported, in part, by Feeding America, through a grant from Procter & Gamble, and the United States Department of Agriculture (Hatch 793-328). The authors express their sincere gratitude to the interviewers and pantry clients who participated in this project.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara H. Fiese
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brenda Davis Koester
    • 1
  • Elaine Waxman
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Human and Community Development, Family Resiliency CenterUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Feeding AmericaChicagoUSA

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