Putting Food Solutions on the Table
July 20 2011
By Kara D. Ryan, Senior Research Analyst, Health Policy Project, NCLR
One day in late March, I visited a southwestern Idaho farmworker housing complex with April Flores Mason. April is a Nutrition Services Specialist for a Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program run by Community Council of Idaho, a nonprofit organization and NCLR Affiliate that provides services to farmworker families across the state.
For families in this Idaho community, buying affordable, healthy food is a significant challenge. Food insecurity is a common struggle for workers who depend on agricultural jobs, particularly during the winter months when there is little work. Yet even when families have enough income to buy sufficient food, April explained, the healthiest items are simply not sold in their neighborhood.
We stood near a small shop that services the rural housing complex. Similar to a convenience store, it stocks a variety of goods for residents. For those without reliable transportation, this store is the only source of food—other than a gas station down the street—for hundreds of families. “The last time I went in,” April said, “there only were about two kinds of fresh produce for sale.” Families who want to buy fresh fruits and vegetables often must drive or find a ride into town, miles down the highway, to shop at a supermarket or discount food retailer.
My colleagues and I heard many stories like these from Latino families who agreed to take part in a video and storybanking project. Nearly all of the participants described their difficulties in putting healthy food on their tables. They described wanting to buy nutritious foods for their children but confronted multiple barriers that made purchasing sufficient healthy food difficult or impossible. The Idaho farmworker village is just one example of a “food desert,” where supermarkets and other food retailers are not easily accessible in neighborhoods where families live. In other areas, such as San Antonio, Texas, many grocery stores were present, but those in low-income Latino neighborhoods often stocked poorer quality and less affordable foods compared to the stores in more affluent parts of town. In these latter cases, despite the presence of food retailers, healthy food may not be affordable or easily accessible.
Access to healthy foods is often at the crux of child hunger and childhood obesity—both problems that plague the Latino community. I am excited to announce that on Sunday, July 24, we will premiere a short film and a story booklet at the 2011 NCLR Annual Conference that showcase Latinos describing these food issues from their personal perspectives. These materials also feature community-based strategies to better address the current nutrition crisis among Latino children.
Throughout the summer, we will continue to hear directly from Latino parents, grandparents, and community experts who, in their own words through short video clips, illuminate an important perspective in the child nutrition conversation. Stay tuned—and sign up to have all ten weekly updates delivered right to your inbox so you can learn more about what we need to do to ensure that Latino families can better access the healthy foods that are so critical to their children’s growth, development, and well-being.
Issues: Health, Healthy Foods, Healthy Families, Nutrition and Physical Activity, Health and Nutrition
Geography:California, Far West, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, Texas