Background

Kelly Memorial Food Pantry (KMPF) is the largest pantry in El Paso, TX. KMFP introduced an innovative approach called Fresh Start that aims to address root causes of hunger by focusing on an environment of dignity and empowerment. This program includes a “choice” model (members choose which food to take home), nutrition education, goal setting through motivational interviewing with a case manager, and referrals to local resources relevant to individual goals. One of the program goals is to increase fruit and vegetable (F/V) intake.

Methods

We conducted a pre-post assessment of F/V intake (skin carotenoids) among 45 participants from three different cohorts using reflectance spectroscopy (Fall2017, Spring2018, and Fall2018; VEGGIE METER®). We also measured the body composition of these participants using bioelectrical impedance (InBody 270). Regression analysis assessed change in F/V intake and body composition - % body fat (PBF) and BMI - over a four-month period and repeated measures ANOVAs tested for between-group differences. Pearson correlations were calculated as well.

Results

Mean age was 50 ± 8.7 years. Average carotenoid scores decreased significantly for the first two cohorts (mean difference ± SD: -32 ± 61, p= 0.04; -25 ± 82, p= 0.01) and increased for the third cohort (34 ± 84, p= 0.02), and there was a significant difference over time by cohort (F= 5.413 (43 df), p= 0.02). The program did not impact body composition over time. However, there was a negative correlation between % body fat and BMI with carotenoid scores (R= -0.29, p<0.01, and R= -0.26, p<0.01).

Conclusions

The difference in changes in F/V intake by cohort might be explained by recent changes in case management that led to consistent training and program implementation fidelity which may improve program results. The relationships of PBF and BMI with carotenoid scores indicate that participants with a higher F/V intake had a healthier body composition, but we cannot confirm a causative effect with this study.