The Community Food Pantry: Assessing Customer Needs | Undergraduate research

Project title

Customer Needs Assessment

Research question

The Community Food Pantry seeks to better understand the needs of our current customers related to their social determinants of health. The Pantry tries to find out if there are any improvements or changes that need to be made to meet the needs of our customers.


The Community Food Pantry (The Pantry) began as a ministry of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The pantry has lacked a cupboard for over 10 years. In 2008, as the needs in the community grew, so did the Food Pantry. Around this time, Pantry Leadership partnered with the Northern Nevada Food Bank to expand the operation to 3 rooms in the church. For 10 years the food pantry was 100% volunteer run and provided food aid to those in need in the Truckee Meadows. At its peak, Pantry volunteers served 30,000 people in 2016. In 2016, Pantry became its own 501c3 organization and began operating independently of the church.

In 2018, The Pantry launched a mobile distribution program that provides shelf stable food to seniors living in weekly motels and senior living centers in Washoe County. This program is supported by a grant from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Aging and Disability Services. This grant enabled The Pantry to hire its first staff member. Over the past three years, the food pantry’s ability to provide services has surged. The organization has become an offsite site, with 2 additional employees and several vehicles.

The Pantry is open for distribution 3 days a week. Although it only serves customers on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, the pantry is busy 5 days a week. With food delivery, restocking, pre-packing and distribution preparation on Thursday and Friday. On average, the community food pantry serves approximately 265 households and 610 people between fixed and mobile programs each week.

In March 2020, when COVID hit the Truckee Meadows, Nevada shut down almost overnight. In April 2020, unemployment in Reno was 20.5% with 45,573 people displaced from the labor market. This COVID jobs crash happened on the heels of a housing crisis in the Truckee Meadows. In March 2020, The Pantry immediately transitioned to a drive-thru distribution model at our fixed location. There were no service interruptions for our fixed or mobile customers.

Our headcount continues to remain stable, we see an average of 135 new people each month, we have not seen any decrease.


Develop and design a survey to gather information from mobile and stationary community food pantry customers
Data collection and analysis
Summary of findings with recommendations for program changes

Suggested Skills

Experience in survey design or evaluation development would be helpful

Experience in data analysis would be useful

However, at a minimum, The Community Food Pantry’s mission is to feed and serve those who need it most with respectful voices and actions. Ideally, we would work with someone who feels personally invested in pursuing this mission.

Agency representative

Elysee Monroy

[email protected]

(775) 432-5533

About Bradley J. Bridges

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