Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Partners with PHA to Provide Health-Promoting and Culturally-Responsive Foods to their Community
Healthy Hunger Relief partner uses WellScan to rank over 75% of its inventory and launch its first-ever organizational nutrition policy to maximize the nutritional quality of food distributed
Written by Sarah Wilson, RDN, Nutrition Manager at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana
Through Partnership for a Healthier America’s Healthy Hunger Relief Program, Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana has been granted support to purchase fresh produce and rank the nutritional quality of our inventory. This includes access to WellScan, a web-based app that scans the UPC code on food items and automatically calculates a nutrition ranking of “Green/Choose Often”, “Yellow/Choose Sometimes”, or “Red/Choose Rarely”. The ranking criteria come from the Healthy Eating Research (HER) Nutrition Guidelines for the Charitable Food System, and the app is designed to make nutrition ranking faster and more efficient for food banks and pantries.
Gleaners started using WellScan in December 2021 to replace our manual nutrition ranking process. Our warehouse receiving team uses the app on their smart phones to scan food items as they come in the door. They write the nutrition ranking for each item on a paper form with other product details. These forms then go to an inventory control staff member who adds the rankings into individual item cards in our inventory management software system (Ceres). This allows the nutrition rankings to be visible to our agency partners when they order food from our food bank, as well as enables us to run reports on the nutritional quality of our inventory.
As Gleaners’ Nutrition Manager, and a registered dietitian, I oversee this process by providing staff training and support. While there have been a few technological glitches and general questions about the nutrition ranking guidelines from staff, we have found WellScan to be a very useful and practical tool. Our warehouse team enjoys how much faster and easier the app is compared to our previous process of manually writing down the nutrient content and reading through the HER guidelines chart to determine the ranking. Thanks to this more efficient system, Gleaners has now ranked over 75% of its inventory!
This is important progress because Gleaners recently developed and launched our first-ever organizational nutrition policy. An internal Nutrition Policy Committee has been formed to put the policy into action and set strategic goals to maximize the nutritional quality of the foods we distribute. The data we collect through WellScan and Ceres will allow the committee to track our progress and assess what is going well and/or where improvements can be made.
Our food bank feels this is a crucial next step in our commitment to the health and well-being of the neighbors we serve. By providing a variety of health-promoting, culturally-responsive foods, we aim to help build a future where food insecurity and health inequities no longer burden our community.
For more information about Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, please visit our website. To learn more about our nutrition initiatives and to access healthy recipes, nutrition tips, pantry resources and more, please visit our NutritionHub website.
Photo 1: A volunteer stocks items near a poster with the nutrition ranking guidelines at Gleaners’ on-site Cynthia H. Hubert Community Cupboard food pantry
Photo 2: Gleaners has used PHA grant funds to source fresh collard greens and a variety of other produce items that meet the cultural preferences of the neighbors we serve