Study finds a third of households -- double previous estimates -- struggle to get food

January 24, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The struggle to get enough nutritious food could be far worse than previously understood, according to a new study examining the intersection between hunger and the types of foods found at nearby stores.

Researchers from The Ohio State University surveyed more than 650 households near a major - and economically and racially diverse - city corridor in Columbus, Ohio, to learn more about their access to food and particularly to healthful foods. They made an effort to identify representative households in terms of race, age, gender and household income.

"Almost a third of the households were food insecure, and more than 16 percent had very low food security, meaning they were skipping meals, at risk for experiencing hunger and probably missing work and school and suffering health problems as a result," said study lead author Michelle Kaiser, an assistant professor of social work at Ohio State. The study appears in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition.

"Previous estimates based on county-level census data would have suggested about half as many households didn't have enough food or adequate access to food," she said.

Households that experience food insecurity have insufficient access to quality food, periodically don't have the means to adequately and healthfully feed themselves and often rely on foodbanks and other sources for food.

Of 663 households surveyed by the Ohio State researchers, 26 percent were not at all satisfied with their ability to easily access food and 27 percent said it wasn't easy to find fresh fruits and vegetables, even though most of those surveyed - 86 percent - said nutritional value was "important" or "very important" to them when shopping. Overall, 32 percent of the households had low or very low food security. The survey included about 1 percent of the households in the neighborhoods included in the study area.

In addition to the survey, the researchers audited 90 stores where people from those households shopped. They looked at prices and compared the items on the stores' shelves and in their coolers and freezers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Thrifty Food Plan and MyPlate recommendations. The food plan specifies low-cost foods to provide adequate nutrition and is the basis for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. MyPlate provides nutritional guidance and stresses the importance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy proteins.

Most people surveyed in the study shopped at a supermarket, but most also shopped at other stores close to their home regularly. For those with food insecurity, that mostly meant carry-outs, corner stores and businesses such as drug stores that house partial markets.

Those stores may have some fruits and vegetables and other wholesome foods, but the offerings are quite limited, Kaiser said.

"In a lot of cases, this is where people are going to buy their food on a regular basis because that's the store they can get to," she said.

Traditional full-service grocery stores are increasingly pulling out of low-income areas and it's rare for a company to choose to locate a new grocery inside the city, particularly near areas with the highest poverty, Kaiser said.

"This study exposed the vastly different experiences of people who all live in the same city," Kaiser said. "My suspicion is that most people don't recognize that there are such discrepancies and can't imagine living where they couldn't easily go to a grocery store."

Previous research has shown increases in depression, social isolation and anxiety among food-insecure residents, she said.

The good news is that there are initiatives that are showing promise, including efforts to give incentives to corner store owners for providing more produce and other nutritious foods, Kaiser said. Other policy options including looking for ways to entice grocery stores to locate in low-income, low-access neighborhoods and assuring that SNAP benefits align with nutrition recommendations, she said.

The next step in the research will include other neighborhoods in Columbus in an effort to better understand the experiences of households in neighborhoods where more immigrants and Latinos live.

Though the study looked exclusively at Columbus, Kaiser said she suspects similar disparities would be found in other metropolitan areas.
-end-
Researchers Jake Carr and Shaun Fontanella also worked on the study.

CONTACT: Michelle Kaiser, 614-688-8363; Kaiser.267@osu.edu

Written by Misti Crane, 614-292-5220; Crane.11@osu.edu

Ohio State University

Related Food Insecurity Articles from Brightsurf:

Some U.S. states hit harder by COVID-19 food insecurity
Food insecurity in America is reaching an all-time high during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food insecurity linked to higher risk of cardiovascular death
A new, large-scale, national study provides evidence of the link between food insecurity and increased risk of cardiovascular death.

Penn Medicine researchers find link between food insecurity and cardiovascular death risk
According to preliminary research conducted by researchers at Penn Medicine, increasing rates of food insecurity in counties across the United States are independently associated with an increase in cardiovascular death rates among adults between the ages of 20 and 64.

New UTSA research identifies link between food insecurity and unengaged distance learning
A new study by the UTSA Urban Education Institute found that 26% of local students and parents surveyed said they were experiencing food insecurity, meaning food ran out and they didn't have more.

Rates of food insecurity remain high despite expansion of NYC food assistance programs
In the latest COVID-19 tracking survey from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy conducted from September 25 to 27, 34% of the sample of one thousand New York City adults reported that their households had received SNAP benefits since September 1st, 2020.

Three-quarters of migrants traveling to US through Mexico experience food insecurity
A survey of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico on their way to the United States found that 74 percent of them experienced a degree of food insecurity, ranging from having only one meal to no food at all for one day or longer.

As food insecurity continues to plague New Yorkers, impact on children is worrisome
One in four households with children have reported a child experiencing hunger as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis, according to the latest CUNY SPH COVID-19 tracking survey.

'Building wealth and health network' reduces food insecurity without providing food
As the coronavirus pandemic forces so many to reckon with growing food insecurity and increased health challenges, the Building Wealth and Health Network program of Drexel University's Center for Hunger-Free Communities is reducing food insecurity and improving mental health - without distributing any food or medicine.

Survey shows regions of elevated food insecurity due to COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to elevated levels of food insecurity in the southern US compared to other areas, according to new research from University of Arkansas sociologists.

Survey: Food insecurity in Vermont rose 33% during pandemic
Food insecurity in Vermont has increased by one-third during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a statewide survey conducted by the University of Vermont at the end of March.

Read More: Food Insecurity News and Food Insecurity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.