Graduation Date


Document Type

Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Health Science

Department or Program Chair

Brett Bayles, PhD, MPH and Patti Culross, MD, MPH

First Reader

Michaela George, PhD, MPH


Food security continues to be a relevant and prevalent problem in the US that affects millions of people per year (1). In 2016, 12.3% of American households were food insecure. Although the percentage of food insecure households is experiencing a downward trend since the great recession in 2007, the current percentage is still higher than the percent of food insecure households before the recession (1).

Research shows that food insecurity is an indicator for negative health, academic, and social outcomes among elementary children leading to poor mathematical and reading performance, weight gain, and poor social development (2). The negative health outcome related to food insecurity and poor dietary intake in children, adults, and pregnant women is an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, some types of cancer, anemia, birth defects, low birth weight, preterm birth, and developmental risk (3). College students are among those that have the highest prevalence rates of food insecurity, sometimes having as much as four times the food insecurity prevalence on their campus as compared to their neighboring communities (4, 5, 6, 7, & 8).

Food banks and food pantries aim to reduce food insecurity within their communities by distributing free groceries to those in need. However, according to a systemic review of 37 studies conducted to examine the effectiveness of food pantries came to the conclusion that food pantries are only an effective short-term option unless they meet certain requirements (9).

The Dominican University of California is one of the universities that has implemented a food pantry program on campus to combat food insecurity in their student population. This research intends to evaluate and assess whether Dominican University's food pantry program called, "The Penguin Pantry," is an effective long-term option to reduce food insecurity severity. This study will use two methods to evaluate the program: an online survey completed by students using the food pantry, and a focus group with the volunteers of the food pantry program. The survey questions will be modeled after the publically available Regional Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Center of Excellence-West's (RNECE-W) Healthy Food Pantry Assessment Tool (10), and it will be formatted to fit an online survey template on This study is important because this is the inaugural year of the food pantry program and the feedback that this study will provide can improve it for years to come.