Exploring food security in traditionally ‘harder-to-reach’ adults in Plymouth
Background: In the general population, higher levels of deprivation are linked to poorer diets and health inequalities. However, the food experiences of harder-to-reach individuals are often under-represented in research. In Plymouth, deprivation levels and healthy eating are worse than national averages, and with foodbank use increasing, the effects of the current economic climate are evident. Since harder-to-reach groups are often in vulnerable circumstances, the effects of these changes on the food experiences and security of these individuals needs considering.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted of users of nine Plymouth services, including soup kitchens, temporary accommodation, and support services (n = 66, age ≥18 years). Sociodemographic, healthy eating, food experiences and barriers, and food security were assessed by face-to-face questionnaires. Healthy eating was assessed by the previously validated Eating Choices Index (ECI) tool of Pot et al. (2013). Descriptive and statistical comparisons were performed.
Results: Mean ECI score was lower than in the average stratified population. Health issues were reported by 85 per cent of the sample, with 36 per cent reporting mental ill-health. Food aid was used by 68 per cent of the sample, with chi-square indicating those who had experienced benefit disruption were significantly more likely to have used food aid (X2 (2) = 10.5; p = 0.005).
Conclusion: Healthy eating may be lower in this harder-to-reach group, though further investigation is warranted. Since food aid was prevalent, especially when income was disrupted, research into the effects of food aid on nutrition and perceptions of food security in harder-to-reach individuals is indicated.
This project was brought together through the NUS ‘Dissertations for Good’ programme, (contact Kim Croadale: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fellow student researchers: Rosalind Burnett, Carla Hallam, Rebecca Kirby, Heidi Ponting