Low-income residents, who comprise the majority of clients in pantries and meals programs, consume much less fresh fruit and vegetables than average, and far less than the USDA minimum recommended daily portions of five servings per day. At the same time, many food pantries are not able to stock and distribute enough fresh local produce to meet the needs of their clients. While much of this gap can be attributed to the fact that fresh produce is more perishable than shelf-stable processed foods, other factors that limit the availability of fresh produce among food pantry and meals program clients, include the limited capacity that many pantries and meals have to transport and refrigerate fresh food, as well as limited hours of operation and staff or volunteer time. As a result, food pantries and meals programs often rely on shelf-stable products, many of which are high-calorie, high-sugar foods to meet clients’ needs.
Supporting food pantries and meals programs to increase the use and distribution of locally produced foods offers many opportunities to increase production, sales, and consumption of Massachusetts-grown food while addressing the need for healthy foods.