A Community-Based Participatory Research Approach to Identifying Facilitators and Barriers to Social Service Utilization for Food Pantry Clients in the Bronx


  • Sameena Azhar Fordham University
  • Abigail M. Ross University of Pennsylvania
  • Eve Keller Fordham University
  • John Weed BronxWorks
  • Gregory Acevedo Fordham University




food pantry, social service utilization, COVID-19, Bronx, New York City


Noting the importance of food assistance programs to low income families in New York City (NYC), the research questions for the present study were: (1) What are the facilitators and barriers to social service utilization for food pantry clients in the South Bronx?, and (2) Does receiving food pantry services serve as a point of entry for social service utilization? We surveyed 218 food pantry clients at a community-based, social service organization based in the South Bronx. Our findings indicate that being aware of local social services was the strongest predictor for utilizing social services. Social service utilization was also predicted by high use of the food pantry (weekly or more); high levels of food insecurity, depressive symptoms; and the ability to communicate effectively in English. Given rising inflation costs and the continued higher expenses associated with food consumption in the United States generally and in NYC specifically, our findings suggest that food pantry sites in the South Bronx bear the potential to be vital entry points for social service referral and utilization, particularly for the screening and assessment of depressive symptoms. Given these findings, nonprofit leaders and social service funders should prioritize capacity building of food pantries as sites for the delivery of health promotion interventions and social services.





Empirical Research