New Guide Includes Tools to Help the Charitable Food System Provide Culturally Connected Foods

What recipes remind you of home? What special holiday dishes do you like to cook for your family? Questions like these are at the heart of culturally connected foods – a term to describe the foods that are important to communities. Culturally connected foods have been on the minds of food banks and food pantries around the country as they seek to offer products that match the needs and preferences of the neighbors they serve.

In response, the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health at the University of Connecticut has launched Meeting Neighbors’ Needs with Culturally Connected Foods, a new guide for food pantries and food banks.

“Cultural food needs can vary greatly from community to community, so we created this guide to give neighbors a voice to describe the foods that they would like to see at the pantry,” says Marlene Schwartz, Director of the Rudd Center.

The guide, which provides an assortment of pre-tested survey questions to make it easier to find foods that are important to neighbors and includes actionable tips for distributing the surveys in respectful and impactful ways, was a collaboration between the Rudd Center, SOPHE, and the CDC.

“SOPHE is proud to partner with the UConn Rudd Center and CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity on this groundbreaking project,” SOPHE CEO Dr. William Datema said. “We appreciate the leadership of both in moving this important effort forward to benefit the nation.”

“The guide was developed in collaboration with people across the charitable food system who have spent a lot of time thinking about how to meet the cultural needs of neighbors,” says one of the authors Maria Gombi-Vaca, Assistant Research Professor at the Rudd Center.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded SOPHE to manage this work as part of the Activating and Disseminating State and Local Public Health Strategies to Improve Nutrition and Physical Activity project. This project was funded through the Cooperative Agreement OT18-1802 – “Strengthening Public Health Systems and Services through National Partnerships to Improve and Protect the Nation’s Health.” Additional authors of Meeting Neighbor Needs with Culturally Connected Foods include Caitlin Caspi, Sarah McKee, and Joel Villalba.

For more information about this guide and other resources for members of the charitable food system, please visit the Rudd Center website.



The Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) is a nonprofit association that supports leaders in public health, health education and promotion to advance healthy and equitable communities across the globe. SOPHE members work in health care settings, communities, organizations, schools, universities, worksites, and in local, state and federal government agencies. For more information visit

About the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Health

The UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Health is a multi-disciplinary policy research center dedicated to providing high-level expertise and guidance on food marketing to children, food assistance programs, food and nutrition-related policies, and policies to reduce weight bias. For more information, visit