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Introduction: Nutritional diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol disorders are particularly high among individuals experiencing homelessness in comparison to the general United States population, leading the propagation of chronic health conditions and overuse of expensive healthcare resources. In addition, the food served in homeless shelters is the main source of nutrition for those living in these shelters, most notably when there is no option for food storage available. Despite the disproportionate prevalence of nutrition-related diseases among the homeless population, there is limited research on the quality of the food provided in homeless shelters and there are few policies to regulate the food being served.

Methods: This exploratory study assesses and compares the quality of food provided as well as the nutritional policies that have been implemented in Philadelphia homeless shelters and nonprofit organizations that care for individuals experiencing homelessness. This study also assesses how food is obtained, prepared, and distributed. Leadership and staff members from Philadelphia homeless shelters are interviewed about food quality, food-related procedures, and food policies at the shelter. Responses from the interview are coded by performing a content analysis.

Results: Five staff members from different homeless shelters were interviewed. A content analysis performed by two researchers revealed food quality at shelters to be ____. Barriers to improving food quality included _____. __ shelters had food-related policies that improved the quality of food served, including ____.

Conclusion: The assumed data suggests that the nutritional quality of food at the shelters is generally poor and that shelter leadership cites similar barriers to improving nutritional quality as those in prior studies. In addition, shelter leadership offered few policies in place to improve the nutritional quality of food, whereas the nonprofit organizations had policies that allow for higher nutritional quality of food. Results provide insight into nutrition initiatives that have been successful among shelters, and future studies should examine the efficacy of these policies.