Research by members of the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and the Prevention Research Center at USC has linked socioeconomic factors with diet quality and meeting dietary guidelines in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the Southeast United States. The study was published in Ethnicity and Health.
The co-authors, Dr. Sara Wilcox, Dr. Patricia Sharpe, Dr. Angela Liese, Ms. Caroline Dunn, and Mr. Brent Hutto, examined baseline data from an evaluation study of a community-led project that aimed to increase access to healthy food. The 465 participants were recruited from two urban settings comprising seven neighborhoods of high household poverty (17 percent to 62 percent).
The participants were predominantly African American (92 percent), women (80 percent), overweight or obese (79 percent), and 19 to 94 years of age. The majority (63 percent) had low or very low food security. Eighty-two percent lived in census tracts of low income and low access to supermarkets, which qualified these areas as urban food deserts.
The researchers completed in-person interviews with participants. They asked questions related to education, household income, and food security. Registered dietitians conducted one unannounced 24-hour dietary recall by telephone.
Dr. Wilcox and her team analyzed these data along with food desert residence based on U.S. Census data, computing scores for participants’ adherence to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Healthy Eating Index 2010. They looked for associations between dietary variables and participants’ education, household income, food security, and food desert residence.
The authors found that a minority of participants met the dietary guidelines. Diet quality was lower among participants with lower education and among those from food insecure households. Household income and food security were positively associated with meeting several dietary guidelines, yet food desert residence was unrelated to diet variables.
In their conclusions, the researchers note that the study observed significant nutritional concerns among members of this disadvantaged population. Further, socioeconomic factors were clearly associated with diet quality and meeting dietary guidelines. They recommend that interventions address broader economic, social, and policy issues such as access to affordable healthy foods.