A hospital-based therapeutic food pantry study for people living with cancer in New Orleans

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Supportive Care in Cancer


Introduction: Food pantries have the potential to improve health outcomes and quality of life for individuals living with cancer. Gender has been linked to certain cancer symptoms and dietary patterns. Nevertheless, the extent of research on the utilization of food pantries among this population, particularly with regard to gender differences, remains limited. The objective of this study is to explore the demographic characteristics and gender differences in quality of life, as well as the impact of cancer on the lives of individuals who utilize food pantry services. Methods: Between February 26, 2019 and July 24, 2022, 400 people living with cancer were eligible to participate the University Medical Center New Orleans (UMC) food pantry. Participants were asked to provide demographic information and completed two health assessments related to the challenges in daily activities, nutrition, and mental health. Results: The study participants had a mean age of 54.1, and the majority of the participants were female. More than half of the participants did not have access to a vehicle or use public transportation to access grocery stores. People living with cancer reported several quality of life issues, with the most prevalent challenges being interference of cancer with work, lack of energy, difficulty affording food, pain, and sleep problems. Additionally, less than half of the patients reported consuming fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, and males were found to be less likely to consume them compared to females. Discussion: The current study sheds light on the characteristics and quality of life of individuals who utilize UMC food pantry services, as well as the impact of cancer on their lives. The findings reveal a gender disparity in fruit and vegetable consumption, with male individuals living with cancer reporting lower levels of consumption. Implications for research and practice: Identifying and addressing food insecurity among people living with cancer are necessary. Meanwhile, partnerships with community organizations may be valuable in finding ways to assist cancer survivors in returning to work. Future studies could also focus on encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption, particularly among male individuals living with cancer.

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