Healthy Hunger Relief

2023 Progress Report

In 2016, we established the Healthy Hunger Relief (HHR) Program to inspire the charitable food sector across the nation to measure the nutritional content of its food inventory and prioritize healthier food options. As you’ll see below, we have helped food banks begin to shift from an emphasis and focus on food security to consider and prioritize nutrition security. The tide is turning, and PHA’s work with food banks is part of how we’ll realize our mission of Good Food for All.

In 2021, as part of generous funding PHA received to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we recruited 35 food banks across 13 states to integrate Healthy Eating Research (HER) Nutrition Guidelines into their standard operating practices by measuring the nutritional quality of their food products, or receive produce grants to directly impact vulnerable communities throughout the Midwest. HER is an initiative started by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. PHA worked with the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health, and More Than Food Consulting to enable this over two years.

The food banks that incorporated the HER Nutrition Guidelines into their daily operations had over 111,900 products. Food banks that received produce grants distributed over 11M servings of fruits and vegetables, a critical nutritional resource at the height of the pandemic. PHA asked food banks to evaluate at least 50% of their inventory; this goal was determined because of the significant resources required to change operating practices such as staff capacity, in-house expertise in nutrition, and access to the food inventory. Historically, food banks have measured their food inventory in pounds (quantity) instead of the nutrition (quality) of the food. Food banks adopting the HER standards places their work on a new level.

Each food item was first sorted into a food category and then assigned a ranking based on the amount of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar within the product.

HER Nutrition Guidelines have three standard rankings:

  1. Choose Often
  2. Choose Sometimes
  3. Choose Rarely

For this work, three additional rankings were offered:

  1. Not Yet Ranked - Items they have not evaluated
  2. Unranked - Items not included in the nutrition guidelines (e.g., baby formula, condiments)
  3. Assorted Not Ranked - Items without a nutrition label.

Below are the results, illustrating the percentage of HER rankings across all food banks that successfully evaluated at least 50% of their inventory.

PHA is committed to continuous learning and improvement. This latest webinar-style engagement has provided valuable learnings about what the future of our Healthy Hunger Relief needs to include, moving forward:

  • More direct counseling of food banks by PHA, or direct intervention by PHA to rank food inventories on behalf of food banks.
  • A step-by-step process guide to integrate into software and regular organizational oversight.
  • Better details for reporting requirements, on a more frequent basis.

“Through the support of Partnership for a Healthier America, we were able to purchase 87,000 pounds of locally-grown produce. The increased volume of produce came at a vital time when we were facing food shortages from our largest source, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Families appreciate getting fresh, local produce that they would otherwise not have access to. The arrangement worked so well that when we received an agricultural sourcing grant from Feeding America, we invested again in purchasing local produce, resulting in 54,965 pounds in the 2023 growing season.” - Eva Bloom, Director of Development, Southeast Ohio Food Bank

You can see a full list of this cohort of food banks here.

All Partners

  • Ahold Delhaize USA

    Ahold Delhaize USA

  • Dole logo

    Dole Packaged Foods

  • KDP Dr Pepper Logo

    Keurig Dr Pepper

  • KinderCare's logo

    KinderCare Learning Companies

  • Logo for Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) partner Learning Care Group.

    Learning Care Group

  • National Automatic Merchandising Association Logo


  • Nurture Life Logo

    Nurture Life

  • Logo for PepsiCo, a Partnership for a Healthier America partner.