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Assessing Community Needs

Nutrition education can be considered a tool, event or intervention delivered to one person (individual) or multiple people at once (community). As advocates working directly with food-insecure communities and food banks to implement nutrition education, an important first step is to conduct a community needs assessment in order to learn about diet-related needs of the population being served. This activity will help to identify a few key factors including:

a) who can benefit from nutrition education,
b) community values and culture which influence attitudes and knowledge,
c) appropriate level and type of service/strategy to pursue in different settings, and
d) potential partners who can support nutrition education efforts.

After completing a needs assessment and implementing nutrition education, further evaluation is important for program managers and volunteers to learn if their tool, event or intervention is effective

Common Evaluation Goals

One goal of evaluation is to determine whether or not nutrition education has been successfully delivered to people. Therefore, a nutrition education intervention should have clear and measurable objectives for delivery of service. Training, if necessary, should be provided to staff. A second goal of evaluation is to learn if people who have participated in nutrition education have benefited in a way that may lead them to practicing healthier eating behaviors in the future. It is important to keep in mind that although the same education intervention may be delivered to many people, individual experiences and outcomes will vary, sometimes significantly. Also, the frequency of nutrition education, one versus multiple exposures, may influence individual experiences, too.


The use of evaluative frameworks will help nutrition education managers and staff focus on what they need to learn for purposes of continual quality improvement, as well as funding and scaling opportunities. The six-step evaluation process, endorsed by the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, describes the process for evaluation that can be ongoing and cyclical within an organization. Finally, since people served will experience nutrition on an individual basis, capturing participant and staff testimonials and photos, which are qualitative data, can provide powerful insights into a program’s impact on people’s lives.

General Evaluation Tools

To access tools for evaluating nutrition education, please visit the assessment and evaluation resources list. You can also watch this webinar focused on food bank nutrition education program evaluation.

FRESH Foods: Food Banking Research to Enhance the Distribution of Healthy Foods

Feeding America® is rigorously examining barriers to and opportunities for increased distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables across the nationwide network of food banks. Through this research, we will develop and disseminate policies and goals for distribution of fresh produce across member food banks. Additionally, we will support food banks in assessing participants’ dietary intake by developing a protocol and survey.

Individual Dietary Intake Tool

Feeding America, in partnership with the University of California, San Francisco and Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition, has finalized a dietary intake survey and will be testing it at food banks in the fall of 2017 through the FRESH Foods research study.