ABSTRACT Rates of food insecurity vary highly across and within regions in the U.S., with rural Appalachia having higher rates compared to the rest of the country, leading parts of the population to rely on food pantries as a source of food. This article explores how food pantries fit into a broader scope of food acquisition strategies of rural Appalachian households and aims to contextualize this with an understanding of how food pantry users perceive their food pantry use. Semi-structured interviews (n=20) were conducted with food pantry users in Eastern Tennessee, followed by a survey for collection of demographic data. NVivo 11.4 software was used for thematic analysis and theory formulation. In addition to pantry use, participants reported reliance on grocery stores, and reciprocal, informal, food-sharing social networks to get food. Lack of transportation, insufficient food quantity, and other factors depleted participants’ food resources. Food stretching, refusing to waste food, acceptability of food pantry food, and money-saving strategies enhanced participants’ food resources. Food pantries are a consistent, but not the only food source for those who use them. Food pantry users are savvy with their resources and employ multiple strategies to maintain their food supply despite high levels of food insecurity.

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