Local Foods Connection Blog

Local foods, hunger relief, sustainable agriculture

Barriers to Local Food Access for Low-Income Individuals February 5, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — caroline@LFC @ 6:23 pm

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
-skip meals
-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.

Public transportation
-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:
Basic Ingredients
-might be lacking for food prep (cooking oil, garlic/onion, butter, milk, flour, spices…)

Basic Equipment
-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

9. Disabilities

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

Mental Retardation:
-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

Comfort Food
-many comfort foods are made with lard, fat, sugar, salt and starches
-many foods use for holiday celebrations are fattening

Fast Food
-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


3 Responses to “Barriers to Local Food Access for Low-Income Individuals”

  1. Cris Bennett Says:

    I need more information. This is a subject that is VERY much of interest to me.

    I have, on many occasions, thought of writing a cook-book with well-balanced meals for low income families. I don’t mean meals on a shoe-string, because I was frustrated by a program by that title, when I realized I couldn’t afford things like oyster sauce, shrimp, etc.

    Anyway, I also participate in a forum for families with LOTS of Kids (www.lotsofkids.com), and the question of feeding large families on a limited budget is a constant thread.

    I watched a Morning show the other day, and heard about a program like this, and mentioned it there. There is a request for more information. So, I’m doing my best to find that information.

    Thanks for any help you can give me.

    Cris Bennett

  2. caroline@LFC Says:

    Hi Cris – Thanks so much for posting. Your cookbook idea sounds like a great one. LFC has been working on food fact sheets for some time now including recipes for our clients. After all, what good is fresh, local food if you don’t know how to cook it? I can imagine that feeding a large family on a small budget is a huge challenge.

    I’m intrigued by the mention of the morning show and a program similar to LFC. I had trouble finding it on your site – only because you have alot of information on there! Please tell me more.

  3. […] willing to incorporate vegetables into their diet, many people are undereducated about the many fast and easy ways to prepare fresh food and lack the confidence to prepare it or make it attractive to children, or haven’t cooked […]

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