Discrimination and security considerations are limitations to entry to wholesome meals for younger adults with meals insecurity

Newswise – Philadelphia, July 19, 2021 – Researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health recently completed a study to determine how food insecure young (aspiring) adults (18-29 years old) adjusted their eating and eating habits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers also tried to identify barriers to food access and ways to improve local access to resources for emerging adults. Your study results will be published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The steep rise in food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected black, indigenous and colored people in the United States. Adolescent adulthood is a time of particular vulnerability to food insecurity and when young people begin to provide meals for their own children. It is a public health concern that food insecurity among emerging adult populations has the potential to negatively impact the health trajectories of several generations.

Researchers used data from the COVID-19 study Eating and Activity over Time (C-EAT), which collected survey data from 720 aspiring adults from April to October 2020 and included interviews with a diverse subset of 33 respondents with food insecurity.

The study found:

  • Almost a third of the young adults surveyed experienced food insecurity in the past year.
  • A disproportionately high prevalence of food insecurity and food shortages among aspiring adults living with children and those who identify as black, indigenous, or colored.
  • Many food insecure emerging adults changed their eating and eating habits to cope with the pandemic – and some of the changes, like consuming more fast food and processed foods or eating more sporadically, could result in negative health outcomes.
  • Emerging adults with food insecurity reported concerns about implementing measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission in grocery stores and other notable barriers to local food access (e.g., reduced hours, security concerns in the neighborhood).
  • Interviewees from different ethnic backgrounds commented on how access to food had recently impacted racial justice riots and reported various forms of discrimination in grocery shopping. Concerns about discrimination and xenophobia, including excessive surveillance and verbal harassment, influenced the way households shop for groceries.
  • Barriers to access to food aid were also an issue in the comments of aspiring adults with food insecurity. Most of the services were provided in accordance with guidelines to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, but factors that limit benefits and access to emergency food aid have been identified, as well as some concerns about food quality, physical distancing, and physical Safety in pantries.

“Our results show an urgent need for research to investigate how racist processes embedded in the politics and practice of society and institutions directly contribute to food insecurity,” said study leader Nicole Larson, PhD, MPH, RDN, Senior Research Associate, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA. “The results also support recent calls for federal food aid to post-secondary students to be expanded, as comments from many emerging adult participants indicated that both students and workers were not entitled to adequate benefits to meet their food needs.”

Dr. Larson noted that even among households that reported receiving federal food aid (e.g., SNAP) there were several emerging adults who reported having to source food from local food supplies or distribution points. The study results also underscored the importance of ensuring that information about food emergency locations is widely disseminated through multiple communication channels and that the opening times of the locations vary to meet the needs of aspiring adults who may need to visit outside of normal hours.

“It is heartbreaking to hear about the high level of food insecurity so close to home. It is up to all of us to work to eliminate food insecurity and ensure that all people have access to adequate amounts of healthy food. As health professionals, lawyers, researchers, and members of society, we all have a role to play. We must now work to prevent the disparities from growing in the wake of this global pandemic, ”added Senior Investigator Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD, Department Head and McKnight Presidential and Mayo Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public, Added Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.

Notes for editors

The article reads, “Barriers to Access to Healthy Food and Food Aid During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Racial Justice Risks: An Examination of Emerging Adult Experiences Using Mixed Methodology,” by Nicole Larson, PhD, MPH, RDN, Tricia Alexander, Jaime C Slaughter-Acey, PhD, MPH, Jerica Berge, PhD, MPH, Rachel Widome, PhD, MHS, and Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand. 2021.05 .018). It appears online in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, edited by Elsevier.

The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The full text of this article is available to certified journalists upon request. Contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 238 3628 or [email protected] Get copies. Journalists interested in interviewing the authors should contact Nicole Larson, PhD, MPH, RDN, at [email protected].

An accompanying podcast and information especially for journalists can be found at www.jandonline.org/content/media. Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; Contact Eileen Leahy for permission.

Via the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

The official journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the premier resource for the practice and science of food, nutrition and dietetics. The monthly peer-reviewed journal presents original articles by scientists and practitioners and is the most widely read specialist publication in this field. The journal focuses on promoting expertise in a range of research and practice topics such as: nutritional science, medical nutritional therapy, public health nutrition, food science and biotechnology, food service systems, leadership and management, and dietary education. www.jandonline.org

About the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics

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