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Prof. David Just, Cornell University




Among the millions of Americans who suffer from food insecurity in the United States, only a fraction utilizes the nation’s 60,000 food pantries. Stigma is commonly cited as a barrier to use. Stigma can arise from any of several sources. However, some may be due to the perceived product quality of pantry offerings.

This study tests this hypothesis using data from an online survey that asks SNAP-eligible individuals to evaluate food items under different treatments. In two treatments, they are told the food is from a grocery store. In two other treatments, they are told the food is from a food pantry. In half the treatments, they are provided with a photo of the food item, indicating a popular brand. Respondents exhibit a negative perception of food from a pantry, but that perception is offset when shown an informative depiction of that food.

The effect of branding is explored in a second online experiment and found to be an important component of consumer perception. Results suggest that food banks and food pantries may be able to combat product stigma through marketing that uses photos, brand names, or both to depict the quality of the products they offer.


Dr. David R. Just received his PhD (2001) and MS (1999) degrees in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and a BA (1998) in Economics from Brigham Young University. He is currently a professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. In addition he serves as co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs.

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