Food insecurity is a serious public well being challenge that, beneath regular circumstances, has profound impacts on socially and geographically marginalized populations. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many nutrition-related well being disparities that these communities have lengthy confronted, together with rural Latino immigrant households, who’ve been disproportionately affected by this public well being disaster.
A latest research led by Denise Diaz Payán, PhD, MPP, corresponding creator and assistant professor of well being, society, and conduct on the UCI Program in Public Health, examined how family meals environments of rural Latino immigrants have been impacted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and the way entry to dietary meals is difficult by obstacles to authorities help packages.
Findings are revealed on-line within the journal Nutrients.
“Latino immigrants in rural communities are uniquely vulnerable to food shortages, especially during crises like the pandemic,” Payán mentioned. “Rural America has become an immigrant destination for many Latino immigrants who face a range of inequalities like lack of employment and reliable transportation, housing instability, limited access to key health and social services, and language barriers that increase their risk of food insecurity.”
Payán and colleagues from the UC Merced Department of Public Health, performed a qualitative research wherein thirty-one respondents from 4 rural counties in California accomplished interviews from July 2020 to April 2021, with 42 p.c of respondents coming from low meals safety households.
“Early in the pandemic, food availability was greatly affected by school closures and more meals needing to be consumed at home. Reduced incomes and wage loss also had a significant impact during this time,” Payán defined.
Findings confirmed that key obstacles to meals entry included larger meals prices in small retailers as a consequence of provide chain disruptions, lack of transportation, and distance to grocery shops, which have been beforehand recognized as impediments to meals safety in rural areas. The group additionally discovered that transportation was a barrier particularly for accessing college meals throughout the pandemic.
Results revealed a number of obstacles to authorities vitamin help packages. Respondents expressed concern about authorized standing and stigma when requested about accessing packages just like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and restricted time and childrens’ meals preferences as obstacles to using college meals when faculties have been closed. They encountered fewer obstacles with the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) and charitable meals packages.
As a workaround, respondents additionally turned to social networks for assist. “In their interviews, many study respondents talked about the importance of social connections for support and resources, describing assistance from friends, family, and neighbors as crucial in offsetting many of these challenges,” Payán mentioned.
“Our study underscores the need to adopt a nationwide universal free school meal program, provide greater incentives for informal transportation networks, use community pick-up locations, and expand public transit,” she continued. “Results can be used to inform the development of future policy and system interventions aimed at decreasing food insecurity and nutrition-related health disparities among vulnerable populations like rural Latino immigrants.”
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