Food insecurity and access

Atlanta, GA
United States

Social media handle(s)
@openhandatlanta (Instagram)

Sought to understand barriers to healthy food access for older adults.

Due to intersecting factors shaped by structural racism, including poverty, unemployment, incarceration, and disability, people of color are more likely to live with diet-related chronic conditions and more likely to die from them. Moreover, many older adults lack access to affordable, healthy, and culturally appropriate foods with which to manage their conditions. To combat food insecurity and its related health impacts, Open Hand Atlanta provides home delivery and congregate meals to senior centers in the Atlanta metro area.

To better understand how it can address food insecurity and health disparities among older adults, Open Hand Atlanta partnered with researchers and students in the Georgia State University Nutrition Program to collect and analyze data. The project team conducted surveys at 10 Metro Atlanta senior centers about food access and food habits, as well as access to wellness and health care resources. It also conducted nine focus group discussions and a photo-elicitation process in two of those centers to capture a diverse range of concerns related to healthy food access. In the focus groups, seniors were asked about facilitators of and barriers to healthy diets. For the photo-elicitation process they were asked to take photos about their food habits, such as where they buy or access food, how they prepare food, and where they eat.

Open Hand Atlanta shared its analysis of the focus groups and photo-elicitation findings with senior participants to solicit their interpretations. Seniors’ recommendations for improving their healthy food access included increasing transportation options, getting assistance with SNAP enrollment, increasing nutrition programming at senior centers, and providing more locations to access free or subsidized food.

Open Hand Atlanta presented these findings, including an analysis of secondary data with food access points mapped with Metro Atlanta demographics, at a meeting of key stakeholders including elected state officials, city agency representatives, and other community-based organizations that work to improve healthy food access. At the meeting, stakeholders committed to following up on the project’s recommendations and identifying funds to implement ideas presented by residents at the senior centers.