News Release

What is free food worth? Study estimates the value of food pantry services

Peer-Reviewed Publication


Although it’s clear that food pantries have had an impact on alleviating food insecurity and hunger, their economic value to their beneficiaries has remained an open question. A study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics estimates that the annual value of access to food pantries within a food bank system in Colorado is between $600 and $1,000 for a client household, and the value per pantry visit is between $40 and $60.

When applying these values nationally, the study’s investigators determined that the collective value of food pantry access among pantry client households may be between $19 billion and $28 billion dollars annually.

“Food banks and pantries distribute a lot of food, but typical economic methods don’t really work when the transaction price is $0. However, borrowing methods from environmental economics allowed us to overcome those limitations,” said corresponding author Anne T. Byrne, PhD, who began this research project while studying at Cornell University and who currently serves as an Economist at the USDA Economic Research Service.

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About the Journal

The American Journal of Agricultural Economics provides a forum for creative and scholarly work on the economics of agriculture and food, natural resources and the environment, and rural and community development throughout the world. The AJAE seeks to publish a body of research that is diverse in method and authorship, and that addresses discrimination and inequity in its subjects of study or within the discipline itself.

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