Thank you to all of you who made it out to the INCA conference this past weekend and supported Local Foods Connection. We couldn’t do what we do without your help.
For those who missed the conference, or those who want a refresher course, we are including here the Top Ten Barriers to Local Food Access for Low-Income Individuals that Laura Dowd presented at the conference. As you probably know by now, the work we do with LFC is all about connecting low-income individuals with healthy, nutritious, local foods. While it’s important for us to support these connections, it’s also crucial that we understand the barriers to access in the first place. And so, in an effort at doing that, we offer:
Top Ten Barriers to Local Food Access for Low-Income Individuals
1. Financial Restrictions
Faced with limited resources, people
-substitute less expensive, less nutritious alternatives
-go to soup kitchens or food pantries
-parents skip meals to make sure there is enough food for their children
-for parents, it is more important to ensure that their children have enough food and “are full” than it is to provide children with a healthy diet
-cannot afford a balanced meal
-paying bills (e.g. rent, utilities, and prescription drugs) takes precedence over food
-one out of six Americans turns to government food assistance programs
Cost of fresh food (healthy, or organic, or local)
-eating a variety of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables, as recommended by the USDA, is expensive
-eating out-of-season fresh fruits and vegetables is even more expensive
-the cost of vegetables and fruit rose 120% between 1985 and 2000, while the price of junk like sodas and sweets went up less than 50% on average
2. Lack of Education – Families
Low-income families need to learn:
-the meanings and benefits of fresh, organic, and local food
-confidence in preparing fresh food
-fast, easy ways to prepare fresh food
-ways to make produce attractive to children
-health benefits of eating produce
3. Lack of Education – Agencies
The agencies that serve low-income families need to be educated on:
-the meanings and benefits of organic food and local food
-how to prepare fresh food
4. Lack of Education – General Population
General population needs to be educated on:
-extent of poverty in Iowa
-causes of poverty
-how poverty affects food shopping habits
5. Distribution of Food – Individuals
Varies by location: Urban, suburban, rural
Low income individuals might live in areas with restricted access to affordable, healthy/fresh foods.
-one-stop grocery shopping is easier for low-income folks. It saves time and gas money. Going to the farmer’s market or a grocery store featuring local foods would require making an additional trip.
-not always adequate or easy to use
-carrying groceries on a bus is difficult, especially with children
-especially a problem in rural areas
Food delivery service
-some Hy-Vee stores offer fee-based service ($12 for shopping & delivery)
-New Pioneer Co-op does not
-Farmer’s Markets do not
6. Preparation & Storage of Food
Individuals might lack:
-might be lacking for food prep (cooking oil, garlic/onion, butter, milk, flour, spices…)
-might be lacking (blenders, adequate pots/pans for recipes that aren’t “one-pot” meals…)
-might be inadequate for storage/prep. Lots of low-income folks live doubled up (with friends or family members) or in rooming houses where they may be lucky to have one shelf in the fridge for cold storage. Appliances can be unreliable – a cooktop with one working burner, for instance.
Agencies might lack:
Refrigeration and Freezing
-Few have adequate space or appliances in which to store fresh food
Kitchen Space and Equipment
-Few have adequate space or appliances with which to prepare fresh food
-Lack of volunteers to process and store fresh ingredients safely.
7. Meeting Government Nutrition Standards
-State and Federal Restrictions on Food Purchasing
-If government money is used to purchase foods at an agency, the agency might be required to meet government nutrition standards. Reconfiguring their menu to meet these standards incorporating local foods might be a burden.
-Restrictions on where government food assistance coupons can be used. WIC coupons cannot be used at the New Pioneer Co-op, the natural food stores in the Iowa City/Coralville area.
-Organic foods are not always eligible. Individual states make the decision
8. Social Service Agency Staff Time
Overworked agency staff
-Few staff members at social service agencies have the extra time to add the component of local foods to their work
Commit from supervisors
-in order for agency staff to integrate nutrition and food into their interactions with clients, there must be interest in and commitment from the agencies’ supervisors or board of directors
There is a very high correlation between having a low-income and having a disability.
-To remain eligible to receive services through Medicaid, individuals are forced to remain at a very low-income level
-Undiagnosed individuals with mental retardation usually don’t know how to use the store or even the oven. They often rely on microwave and take-out.
-Diagnosed individuals with mental retardation might receive funding for services and have access to Support Community Living (SCL).
-SCL is a one-on-one service that teaches, assists and creates skills for individuals with disabilities
-SCL goal is to work toward specific goals and increase client’s independent living skills and community development.
-SCL clients can have goals that help them learn about nutrition and how to cook and shop wisely.
-Workers might not be educated in these areas.
-Recipes need to be easy and only a few steps long.
Physical & Mental Illness and Brain Injury:
-These individuals might be eligible for Consumer Directed Attendant Care (CDAC).
-Workers can grocery shop and prepare meals for clients
-Workers might not be educated in nutrition and cooking.
10. Cultural Values & Lifestyles
-many comfort foods are made with lard, fat, sugar, salt and starches
-many foods use for holiday celebrations are fattening
-low-income families are accustomed to eating fast food
-many fast food commercials target low-income families
-fast food restaurants are built in low-income communities
Emergency Food Assistance
-low-income families often receive processed food from food pantries