By Anne Hogan
Food insecurity in immigrant households is a complex issue that affects many families, regardless of race and country of origin (Berning et al., 2022). To prevent food insecurity in U.S. immigrant households, we must understand and address the unique challenges these families face.
Barriers to Food Security:
Several factors may put U.S. immigrant households at risk of food insecurity. To start, those with low proficiency in English are more likely to be food insecure than individuals who speak English fluently. Additionally, households that do not have connections to friends, family, or community groups for social and financial support may need help to obtain nutritious food (Vu et al., 2021). Finally, low-income immigrant households who need food assistance may not be eligible for programs such as SNAP, or they may need help with the application process (Berning et al., 2022).
How can communities assist U.S. immigrant households struggling with food insecurity? One potential solution is to provide food assistance services in the languages of prominent immigrant groups. In addition, community organizations can offer language education to individuals who wish to improve their proficiency in English so they can utilize these services. Approaching the language barrier in this way would allow public health and community organizations to effectively help those in need and would further assist immigrant families in navigating food assistance services (Vu et al., 2021)
Another strategy is implementing community health workers and peer-support groups to provide target populations with nutrition education and food assistance resources (Vu et al., 2021). An example is the model used by the Promotores de Salud, where members of Spanish-speaking communities are trained to provide health education and translation services to Hispanic populations (Promotores, 2020). Similar models could be used in immigrant communities to provide nutrition education, food assistance, and other outreach services. Ultimately, community health workers and peer-support groups within immigrant communities can help build social networks and connect immigrant families to the resources they need.
U.S. immigrant families face unique barriers to obtaining adequate, nutritious food. Serving these families requires communities and public health organizations to provide culturally appropriate outreach that addresses these challenges while promoting health.
Berning, J., Norris, C., & Cleary, R. (2022). Food insecurity among immigrant populations in the United States. Food Security, 15(1), 41–57. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-022-01322-8
Promotores and Promotoras de Salud. MHP Salud. (2021, December 17). https://mhpsalud.org/our-programs/promotoras-de-salud/
Promotora de Salud/lay health worker program models – RHIHUB Community Health Workers Toolkit. Rural Health Information Hub. (2020, September 8). https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/toolkits/community-health-workers/2/layhealth
Vu, M., Raskind, I. G., Escoffery, C., Srivanjarean, Y., Jang, H. M., & Berg, C. L. (2020). Food insecurity among immigrants and refugees of diverse origins living in metropolitan Atlanta: the roles of acculturation and social connectedness. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 10(6), 1330–1341. https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/ibaa035
Anne Hogan is a Graduate Student in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Image by Erik Scheel from Pexels.