Munich Personal RePEc Archive

How Cost Effective Are Food Pantry Programs for the Poor Likely to Be?

Wodon, Divya and Wodon, Naina and Wodon, Quentin (2013): How Cost Effective Are Food Pantry Programs for the Poor Likely to Be?

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This paper proposes a simple methodology for measuring and analyzing the cost effectiveness of food pantries and other food distribution programs that transfer in-kind benefits to the poor. The methodology suggests that even if the administrative cost, management, and nonfood costs of running food pantry programs is not negligible, the benefits generated by these programs for low income families may still be important for two reasons. First, the prices paid by food pantry programs when purchasing food from local food banks are lower than the prices charged by supermarkets for similar products. Second, most beneficiaries of food pantry programs are likely to belong to low income families and are also likely to use most of the food received. At the same time, the benefits from food pantry programs remain somewhat limited. Therefore, while the value of the food distributed by these programs is important for beneficiaries, additional initiatives to help households better allocate their own expenditures on food might generate even more value, thereby increasing the cost effectiveness of such programs.

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