Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Umoren, Josephine M.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Health Studies




For residents of homeless shelters, food served on-site is a main source of nutrition. Due to pervasive health issues, there is a genuine need for this population to receive proper nutrition during their stay at shelters. However, there is limited research examining the nutritional quality of the meals served at these facilities and there are no existing nutrition regulations on the food provided unless the shelter is receiving financial assistance from a state or federal program. The purpose of the study was three-fold: a) to evaluate the nutritional quality of food provided by homeless shelters, b) to determine if the nutritional quality of meals differed between shelters that have volunteers provide meals and shelters that provide meals themselves, c) to determine if the nutritional quality of meals differed in shelters that set nutritional standards for their meals from those that did not. One hundred and ninety-five eligible shelters were asked to participate by completing an online survey and submitting dinner information. A total of 21 shelter directors volunteered and completed the survey, along with 11 of those directors submitting information on three of their dinner meals. Due to this low response rate, it could not be determined if there was a significant relationship between shelter policies and nutrition. Additional open-ended questions were asked of participants to obtain qualitative data for analysis. Nutritional analysis of the shelter meals revealed the nutrients that did not meet 1/3 of the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) were calories for men, carbohydrates, total fiber, calcium, and vitamin D across all genders, while sodium was over twice the recommended amount. Nutrition standards were used by 14 shelters and they consisted of food groups that must be represented at each meal, with some requiring specific amounts of each food group. Barriers to following their standards included the use of food donations, the use of volunteer-provided meals, lack of resources, and the special dietary needs of clients. Shelter directors described three ways registered dietitians could help shelters: 1) provide nutrition education and counseling to shelter clients, 2) aid in meal planning to improve meal nutrition, 3) identify food to serve clients with specific dietary needs. The qualitative data gathered suggests food donations are the main factor in meal planning and override nutrition standards. Therefore, future research should focus on the nutritional value of food donations and how to encourage healthful food donations.


Advisors: Josephine Umoren.||Committee members: Priyanka Ghosh Roy; Thomas Smith.||Includes bibliographical references.


74 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type