Support Application for Food Pantries (SAFPAS)


Food pantries face many challenges, including recruitment and training of staff/volunteers, communications with staff/volunteers and neighbors, providing neighbor choice, and emergency preparedness. We will develop, implement, and evaluate the Support Application for Food Pantries (SAFPAS), a mobile application to address these concerns under normal and emergency operations, and assess its impact on 20 Baltimore food pantries, and on the healthiness of foods received by 360 food pantry neighbors using a randomized controlled trial design. If successful, the tested and refined app will support local food assistance programs throughout the United States.

Project Aims

  • To develop a mobile application to support food pantry services in low-income settings in Baltimore.

  • To pilot the SAFPAS mobile application with Baltimore food pantries, their neighbors, and city agencies to test the app’s usability.

  • To evaluate the impact of the SAFPAS mobile application on the healthiness of foods received by neighbors.

  • To evaluate the impact of the SAFPAS mobile application on the quality and healthiness of foods offered, staff capacity, and emergency preparedness.

  • To assess the impact of the SAFPAS mobile application on the impact on food security and related behaviors.

Phases of Research

  • Phase 1: Formative Research
  • Phase 2: SAFPAS App Development
  • Phase 3: SAFPAS Pilot Evaluation
  • Phase 4: SAFPAS Pilot App Implementation
  • Phase 5: Post-Intervention Data Collection
  • Phase 6: Data Analysis

App Features

We are implementing these app features using a phased approach, beginning with volunteer features,then moving to echoice capabilities, and finally wrapping it up with the emergency preparedness capacities.

Food pantry staff and volunteer features:

Volunteer recruitment, training and scheduling; communication with neighbors and city agencies; emergency preparedness training and communications.

Food pantry neighbor features:

Resources locator, eChoice (online ordering/selection of preferences), nutrition education, emergency preparedness information, communication with pantry.

City and State Agencies:

Communications dashboard with other city agencies and food pantries, real-time situational awareness.

App Wireframes

In our formative research, we have conducted various interviews with food pantry coordinators, neighbors, volunteers, and food bank staff in Baltimore and Detroit on both the form and function of the intended application features. We utilized their feedback and suggestions to inform how we developed this second version of our wireframe images.


Joel Gittelsohn, PhD
Joel Gittelsohn, PhDPrincipal Investigator
Daniel Barnett, MD, MPH
Daniel Barnett, MD, MPHPrincipal Investgator
Melissa M. Reznar, PhD, MPH
Melissa M. Reznar, PhD, MPHDetroit Principal Investigator
Veronica Velez-Burgess, MSc, MA, INHC
Veronica Velez-Burgess, MSc, MA, INHCResearch Program Coordinator
Lisa Poirier
Lisa PoirierResearch Associate
Tak Igusa
Tak IgusaProfessor, Civil and Systems Engineering
Ayoyemi Toheeb Oladimeji
Ayoyemi Toheeb OladimejiDoctoral Student, Public Health Systems Modelling
Brooke Gagnon
Brooke GagnonResearch Assistant
Leena Moses, MSPH
Leena Moses, MSPHResearch Assistant
Lexi Lightner
Lexi LightnerResearch Assistant
Noor Attar
Noor AttarResearch Assistant
Stacey Williamson
Stacey WilliamsonResearch Assistant

If you would like the data collection forms please email Joel Gittelsohn. 

Legal Disclaimer: Under Copyright Law we encourage you to use our materials for personal or educational purposes, provided that a copyright notice accrediting the content to “Dr. Joel Gittelsohn/Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health” is attached to the reproduction. No reproduction may be made of any of the artworks from this website for commercial use for any reason without first receiving written permission from Dr. Joel Gittelsohn/Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.