Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Food Science and Human Nutrition


Diet and Exercise

First Advisor

Donna Winham


Introduction: Access to nutritious food is essential to sustaining human life, which high poverty rates threaten. Nationally, there is a poverty rate of 13.1%. While Iowa overall has a rate of 11.2%, Story County has the second-highest poverty rate in the state at 18.9%. Food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and emergency food programs, including food pantries, can help. Overall, these may be increasing access to food, but low-income and male populations continue to have low diet quality. Food pantry participants also have below-average intake of fruits, vegetables, and dairy. One type of food to incorporate to improve diets can be pulses which include beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas. Pulses are not costly but have ample health benefits.

Purpose: This descriptive study aimed to determine associations between demographics, food security and dietary intake of low-income men in food pantries using a socioecological model. The research also aimed to assess the knowledge and consumption patterns of pulses for low-income men utilizing food pantries.

Methods: Men aged 24-64 were recruited from food pantries across Story County to complete a survey assessing sociodemographic characteristics, food security, and diet quality. The survey structure was guided by the socio-ecological model and each question was chosen to reflect influences at the intrapersonal, interpersonal, physical environment and policy levels that impact an individual's food security and diet quality. The survey also addressed the participant's use, attitudes, and knowledge of pulses. Participants provided written informed consent and received $5 if they completed the survey.

Results: Between January and February 2020, 47 men across 13 different food pantries in Story County completed the survey. The response rate was approximately 75% of eligible men (47/53) who were asked to participate. The mean age was 46 ± 12, 72.9% of respondents reported low or very low food security but only 29.2% received SNAP benefits. Forty-six percent of participants ate fewer than 3 vegetables per day, consumed an average of 18.3 grams of fiber per day, and 42% reported consuming beans 2-3 times per month. Those with higher food insecurity had lower BMIs, usually lived in temporary housing, and were more likely to sell or pawn personal property for money. There was no effect of having children or household size on food security or receiving SNAP. Finally, general attitudes and knowledge towards pulses were positive as 85% said they liked beans and over half knew that beans could help lower LDL cholesterol, control blood sugar, and help to lose weight among other health benefits.

Conclusion: Adult males in Story County that are regularly attending food pantries still experience high rates of food insecurity and low amounts of fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Factors such as living situation but not household size were associated with food security level. Participants had reasonable knowledge of the health benefits of beans but lacked in other general nutrition knowledge. These findings suggest that there are many interrelated aspects to food insecurity and food pantry use for men in Story County, Iowa.


Copyright Owner

Elizabeth Davitt



File Format


File Size

87 pages