Exploring perceived importance of a novel emergency food program during covid-19 and program recipient characteristics

Makenzie L. Barr, Kendra Oonorasak, Kristin Hughes, Lauren Batey, Kaela Jackson, Haley Marshall, Tammy Stephenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Following rising unemployment rates and consequent loss of income due to COVID-19, many people have been seeking meal assistance. This study examines the impact of a community-based free meal distribution program during the pandemic in Kentucky, reviewing characteristics of recipients of the program. Demographics, health behaviors, food insecure classification, and rating of importance of the meal program were collected. Qualitative feedback on the impact of the program was collected via open response. Of the 92 participants using the meal service, the cohort was female, Black, 43 years of age (43.5 ± 15.0 years), with a household income under 30,000 USD before COVID, decreased income since COVID, and were food insecure. Recipients rated the importance of the service as 8.7 ± 1.8 (of 10), and those with children indicated the importance as 4.2 ± 1.1 (of 5). Qualitative data on program importance highlighted four response categories including “changed habits”, “mental wellbeing”, “provided resources”, and “other”. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals have struggled. Meal assistance programs are a fundamental asset in the community that have seen marketed demand since COVID-19. Collaboration with, and evaluation of, meal assistance programs can be valuable for continued programmatic funding support.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10786
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • COVID-19
  • Community
  • Food access
  • Food security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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