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Developing a Food Bank Nutrition Policy: A Guide to Procure Healthful Foods is a Course

Developing a Food Bank Nutrition Policy: A Guide to Procure Healthful Foods



Full course description

Course Date:



6 weeks


1-2 hrs/week



Course Type:



Free certificate


Food banks are important community organizations that provide charitable food assistance to food insecure households. Food banks rely heavily on donated foods and beverages and government supplied foods for their inventory. Until recently, there were no nutrition guidelines for food banks to follow in deciding the types of foods and beverages to accept, procure, and distribute. Recently, Feeding America, the national network organization of food banks, issued a nutrition framework to provide food banks with nutrition criteria for identifying healthful foods and beverages. Food banks are seeking direction in applying nutrition guidelines and generally how to move toward nutrition-focused food banking. This course will explain the importance of this shift toward healthier 'charitable' foods and guide participants through the process of developing food bank nutrition policies to help food bank staff and others in making nutrition improvements in food inventory.

In practice, the process of developing a nutrition policy takes several months, yet this course runs for just 6 weeks. The course is designed to engage participants in real world examples of challenges that food banks encounter with the opportunity to develop skills and competencies before embarking on an actual nutrition policy with a food bank.

Topics covered include:

  • Week 1: Hunger and health in the U.S.
  • Week 2: Advocating for a food bank nutrition policy (the rationale)
  • Week 3: What foods should be part of a food bank nutrition policy?
  • Week 4: What are the features of a sound nutrition policy?
  • Week 5: Bringing the right stakeholders to the table
  • Week 6: Convening a successful nutrition policy working group

This course is primarily designed for:

  • Staff and volunteers of food banks, food pantries, and other charitable feeding organizations
  • Nutritionists and other public health professionals to whom food bank staff may turn for technical assistance
  • Anti-hunger advocates, food policy councils, and community groups who want to better understand and support nutrition focused food banking
  • Educators who want to promote “food system literacy,” including the charitable food assistance system

Although the details of the nutrition guidelines, the sources of foods, and the distribution system for emergency foods may differ in other countries, the process, rationale, and course resources for developing a nutrition policy may be useful to adapt.


By completing the three modules in this course you will expand your interest, knowledge, and participation in dialogue with friends, family and coworkers about:

  • The problems of hunger, food insecurity, poor nutrition, and the health and well-being of low income populations,
  • Programs and strategies, particularly federal food programs, to assist those who are low income and food insecure, and
  • How the US charitable food system works and the important role it plays for households with chronic food shortages.
  • Become an advocate in your sphere of influence for food bank nutrition policies and the need for food banks to provide healthful foods.
  • Become familiar with typical foods in food bank inventories and nutrition guidelines for food banks. Apply knowledge to identify foods that align with nutrition guidelines and promote healthful diets among clients of charitable food assistance.
  • Identify key sections and features of sound nutrition policies; and evaluate sample nutrition policies and recommend ways to strengthen them.
  • Focus on the process of engaging all stakeholders in developing a nutrition policy; hone your skills in planning and convening a working group to develop a policy that satisfies all stakeholders.

Course Instructors

Karen Webb

Karen Webb PhD, MPH

Senior Researcher

Karen Webb is a public health nutrition academic with experience in University level research and teaching, including online curriculum development and teaching in public health. Her primary interest is working with community practitioners on designing and evaluating programs and policies to improve the nutrition quality of foods available where lower income people live, work and play. She has been involved in many in-service training courses for food policy council members, community health workers, first nations people, aboriginal health workers, and public health professionals. Read More.

Karen is currently senior researcher at the Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California, where she is involved in national, state and local level studies evaluating programs and policies to prevent obesity in low income communities. She and her colleagues at NPI have been studying and working with Food Banks over several years to support their efforts to acquire more healthful foods and to develop nutrition policies.

Prior to working at the NPI Karen was with the UC Berkeley Center for Weight and Health. From 1990-2007, Karen was the founding Director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Sydney, Australia, and a nutrition epidemiologist on large cohort studies of nutrition determinants of diabetes, obesity, eye disease and asthma. As deputy Director of the Australian Food and Nutrition Monitoring Unit, she assisted in the design of a national nutrition survey for Australia; surveys to monitor infant and toddler feeding practices; and monitoring food insecurity in the Australian population.

Karen is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley, with a Master of Public Health degree in nutrition, which she earned after completing a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from California Polytechnic University. She received her PhD from the University of Sydney, Australia in Social and Preventive Medicine.

Liz Campbell

Liz Campbell, MA, RD

Research Associate

Elizabeth Campbell is a Food Security and Nutrition Consultant. Elizabeth also is an afiliated research associate with the University of California's Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI). Formerly with the UC Berkeley Center for Weight and Health, she has focused on research and technical assistance on improving the nutrition quality of charitable foods distributed through the network. Elizabeth worked for the Food Bank of Central New York for several years and held many positions during her tenure. As the Director of Internal Operations, she oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Food Bank including programming, outreach, nutrition education, and warehousing. As the Nutrition Resource Manager, she led the team that developed and implemented the first nutrition policy for donated foods in the food bank network. Read More.

As a nutrition consultant, Liz was the Senior Program Manager at the School Nutrition foundation where she focused mainly on the implementation of Breakfast in the Classroom as a way to address food insecurity.

She is a registered dietitian, a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Hunger and Environment Dietetic Practice Group. Elizabeth earned her Bachelor’s degree at LeMoyne College where she majored in Human Resource Management and Industrial and Labor Relations and her master’s degree from Syracuse University where she majored in Nutrition Science.

Michelle Ross

Michelle Ross, MPH

Academic Coordinator

Michelle Ross is an Academic Coordinator at the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), University of California. Michelle ​manages evaluation projects and oversees field data collection and analysis for a variety of studies undertaken by NPI, particularly evaluations of school based nutrition and physical activity interventions in communities. In the past several years at the UC Berkeley Center for Weight and Health, Michelle conducted research and evaluation on nutrition-related policies and practices​ of food banks ​including detailed studies of trends in food inventory of food banks, food pantries and client preferences. ​She has been involved in providing technical assistance to over 20 food banks in nutrition policy development. Prior to working at NPI and the Center for Weight and Health, she worked on community food security in Oakland, California. She received her Master of Public Health degree at the University of California, Berkeley in public health nutrition and her Bachelor degree from Cornell University in Human Development.

University of California, Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI)

Our team at University of California, Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) is excited to be offering this online course, and we are hoping to engage the enthusiasm and wisdom of adult learners who work in food banking and related fields and who bring “real world” knowledge about providing food assistance to families in need. We have been researching and working with professionals in the food bank network since the early 2000s to assist and support their attempts to improve the nutritional quality of foods for low income families. We aim to engage students in online learning with simulated problems and solutions that mirror the challenges faced in food banking, and provide resources that food bankers have found useful. We particularly want to encourage sharing of experiences and knowledge, as well as applying the principles and best practices for organizational change to each participant’s local situation. Participants who are not food bankers will learn much about how food assistance through the food bank network works, and how professionals and community members might support a focus on nutrition.

Sign up for this course today!