Background: Food insecurity (FI), the unpredictable availability of nutritionally balanced food to maintain health, is a growing public health issue. This study aims to elicit perspectives of older adults at risk for FI and evaluate the potential impact of a fresh food Rx (FFRx) program.
Methods: Five focus groups (n=26) were conducted in February-March, 2020, with Hispanic, Spanish-speaking and African-American, English-speaking older adults. Existing fresh food infrastructure, relevant nutritional support programs, facilitators and barriers to accessing and cooking healthy food, and perceptions of a FFRx program were evaluated. Focus groups were recorded and transcribed with a thematic analysis performed by a professional qualitative research team, using Atlas.ti version 8.4 to inductively identify emerging themes.
Results: Four themes emerged: 1) Factors that influenced food access; 2) factors affecting cooking behavior: time constraints, participants’ level of enjoyment with cooking, familiarity with produce preparation, and cultural and communal role of cooking and eating; 3) factors affecting healthy eating patterns: food likeability, knowledge of sustainable diets, support for behavior change, and recognition of cultural dietary patterns; and 4) feedback on FFRx, including produce boxes and cooking classes, was positive. Participants preferred local, farm-fresh food and were interested in learning ways to prepare vegetables. Concerns about the stigma of receiving community aid and previous low participation in health coaching programs were voiced.
Conclusions: Overall, participants were interested in receiving and learning about healthy foods and ways to prepare them. A FFRx program that includes the distribution of produce and healthy lifestyle education would meet this interest. Social, cultural, and financial barriers to healthy eating may not be immediately resolved, but these barriers can be addressed over time with consistent, sustainable programs.
Learning Outcome: After completing this learning activity, the participant will be able to assess innovations being used by other professionals in the specialty and evaluate the potential of implementing the improvements into practice.