Real Food Pantry (logo)

We have done our best to compile the questions we are most often asked and to answer them here. Please email us if you feel we have left something out.

Why was the Real Food Pantry program created?

Residents of America’s public housing communities are too often living in so called “food deserts” as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Our goal is to provide affordable, healthy and nutritious food to children and families living in government-owned and sponsored affordable housing communities.

What is a Real Food Pantry?

Sponsored and funded by private sector partners who have an interest in the health and well-being of America’s public housing residents, Real Food Pantries are physically located within selected public housing communities participating in the HUD Secretary’s EnVision Centers Initiative. Components of Real Food Pantry include a demonstration and teaching kitchen, a retail café, and a pantry of fresh food ingredients. Food service professionals work directly with residents of the public housing communities to establish and manage the pantry.

What exactly does a Real Food Pantry do?

Our mission is to provide healthy and nutritious, or “real food," to children and families living in government-owned and sponsored affordable housing communities. We do so while providing educational opportunities on nutrition and health designed to provide the tools for success that all of America's children deserve. A key objective of Real Food Pantry is to inform families of the importance of what is in their diet and why they should care.

What do you mean by real food?

There is no simple definition and chefs, scientists and consumers all have different opinions. Our simple goal is to do everything we can to ensure that children and families living in America’s public housing have the opportunity to enjoy healthy and nutritious food that is affordable and readily available.

Where are Real Food Pantries located?

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is designating EnVision Centers across the United States. Real Food Pantries will be in those locations where we are able to work cooperatively with the residents of the communities and private sector partners willing to support our efforts.

Is a Real Food Pantry part of a new government program?

The Real Food Pantry is not a new government program. Instead, we are working with private sector partners, faith-based organizations, state and local governmental leaders, and existing federal programs to make Real Food Pantry a success.

Do Real Food Pantries duplicate school lunch programs or other programs already in existence?

Unlike existing programs, a Real Food Pantry will be physically located in America’s public housing communities across the country. Our program is intended to compliment the magnificent work already being conducted elsewhere.

Don’t food banks do what a Real Food Pantry is doing?

There are several excellent programs that help families to learn about the need to prepare and eat affordable and healthy food. Real Food Pantry is unique in that we are focused on America’s public housing residents and working with them directly where they live.

Who operates a Real Food Pantry?

In order to ensure the stability of the Real Food Pantries, we work closely with the respective housing authorities to identify residents who can become invested in their success. Residents can develop skills that are useful in seeking employment opportunities. We will also partner with local businesses, non-profits, existing university nutrition programs and individuals who care about improving conditions for the residents of the community to guarantee that food and manpower are not in short supply.

Who owns a Real Food Pantry?

Real Food Pantry is a program of Real Food America, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. We are hopeful that residents will become so involved in the management of the Real Food Pantries in their communities that they will come to have a feeling of ownership that will eventually create opportunities for actual ownership.

How much does a meal from a Real Food Pantry cost?

Every attempt will be made to make the meals as low-cost as possible and we will work to do so through a network of partnerships. The goal for Real Food Pantry to ensure that all Americans, including those living in public housing, have an opportunity for real food.

Will full meals be served or just samples?

While some communities may choose to provide full meals to the demonstration attendees, the objective of each session will be to provide the tools needed to prepare a healthy meal in an efficient and affordable manner. A by-product of the session will be the ability of the attendees to sample the prepared meals, thereby spiking their interest in replicating the dishes in their own homes.

What days/times will Real Food Pantry operate?

We expect the hours of operation to start on a part-time basis with expansion dependent on the level of participation by residents. Our hope is to see full-time operations of Real Food Pantries in numerous locations in the very near future.

Can government benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program be used in a Real Food Pantry?

We’re working to make that possible and are coordinating with the appropriate federal agencies to achieve that result.

Can only residents in a community where a Real Food Pantry is located have access to them?

By entering into private and public-sector partnerships through HUD’s EnVision Center Initiative, we’re working to make the Real Food Pantries available beyond the residents of America’s public housing communities. We will begin modestly and work from there to reach as many children and their families possible.

Will employment opportunities arise from the opening of Real Food Pantry?

That is one of our primary goals. By teaching and empowering residents to participate directly in the Real Food Pantries in their communities, we anticipate that they will learn to operate the pantries themselves as food service professionals, become culinary arts students and some may even become chefs.

What is an EnVision Center?

From the HUD website: “Under the leadership of President Donald J. Trump, the Administration is committed to reforming government services and expanding opportunities for more Americans to become self-sufficient. The EnVision Center demonstration focuses on empowering people to leave HUD-assisted housing through self-sufficiency to become responsible homeowners and renters in the private market. By doing so, HUD will be able to make those resources available to others and help more Americans.”

What is the role of HUD in the EnVision Centers?

As the chief administrator of public housing in the United States, HUD is the key federal regulator in charge of the EnVision Centers Initiative.

Where are the EnVision Centers located?

HUD has sought input from the general public through the federal regulatory process by issuing a Request for Proposals. The Secretary will announce EnVision Center locations as they become determined and ready for public participation.

What is the role of residents in EnVision Centers?

Residents of America’s public housing are the most important participants in the EnVision Centers. The number one goal of the EnVision Centers is to empower those residents through the EnVision Center sponsored programs, thereby enabling them to become self-sufficient.

What is the role of residents the Real Food Pantries?

As with the EnVision Centers, residents of America’s public housing will be the most important participants in the Real Food Pantry program; both as consumers of healthy, nutritious and affordable food, and as eventual managers and potential owners of the Real Food Pantries.

How can I or my organization get involved with the Real Food Pantries?

You can email us or visit our “Get Involved” page to join our email list.

How can I or my organization get involved with the EnVision Centers Initiative?

We are happy to help connect you with the larger EnVision Centers Initiative and the other participants involved.

Can I or my organization donate money to the Real Food Pantry?

Real Food Pantry works because of financial support from the private sector. Our goal is to make healthy and nutritional food available to HUD residents who often live in food deserts. In order to overcome the added costs associated with being in an area where the supply of healthy good options is less common, we encourage donations. Donate now.

Are contributions to the Real Food Pantry tax deductible?

Yes. The Real Food Pantry is a program of Real Food America, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation located in the United States.

Can I or my organization volunteer to work in a Real Food Pantry?

If you are located near an existing or future Real Food Pantry, we would love to discuss ways you might get involved with us. Previous experience in the food service industry is especially helpful. If you are not near an existing Real Food Pantry and have a strong desire to help, we would love to meet you and discuss how we can work together in a meaningful way.

What do I need to do to set up a Real Food Pantry in my own community?

Again, you can email us or visit our “Get Involved” page to join our email list.

Can churches and other faith-based organizations get involved with the Real Food Pantry?

Yes, and we are encouraging their participation. Real Food Pantry is a terrific way for faith-based organizations, including churches, to help residents of America’s public housing communities to achieve their full potential.

Can school/church service hours be accrued for volunteering at the Real Food Pantry?

We plan to work with a variety of volunteer organizations in each community that Real Food Pantry serves to design appropriate service hour structures that meet the needs of the organizations as well as properly serving the Pantries. We will be offering links on the website to the groups that will support volunteering at Real Food Pantries as having met their service hour requirements.

Can my employer support the Real Food Pantry program?

Yes, and we very much appreciate the support. We’re happy to work with you and your employer to set up contributions as a part of your annual giving opportunities or however else will best accommodate your company.