"To develop choice food pantries, you need to involve clients, food pantry directors, and organizations that secure donations such as schools and churches," Remley says. "They need to procure not just canned goods but focus on healthier choices."
It's also important to form linkages between pantries and local farms and gardens to supply fresh foods, he says.
"For example, one of the biggest challenges for pantries is to get a variety of foods in the dairy group," Remley says. "A lot of times, they just have dry milk. With more partners helping, fresh milk and other dairy options can become available."
Remley has long experience with the choice food pantry model, helping create such a pantry when he was the family and consumer sciences educator for OSU Extension in Butler County.
By working on this project, he said he hopes to find ways to improve the model and use the expertise of Michael Newton-Ward, a social marketing consultant in public health in North Carolina. Social marketers such as Newton-Ward apply commercial marketing principles to health, social, and quality-of-life issues.
"Grocery stores often put the most profitable or the most expensive items at eye-level as a subtle way to encourage consumers to purchase them," Remley says. "In the food pantry environment, we want to make changes so the easiest choice is the healthiest choice.
"Combine that with nutrition education, and everyone wins."
The group is holding its first meeting in April and hopes to begin approaching communities by the end of May. The project is funded through the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture and its 2012 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative's Food Security Program