Cost Impacting Healthy-eating Desire
Data indicate the great majority of low-income Americans not only understand the importance of healthy eating, but also that they want to know more about how to do so.
The biggest barrier? Cost, not surprisingly, according to 70% of those who responded in a study by Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit organization that aims to end childhood hunger in America.
The study says 85% of low-income families think that eating healthy meals is important to them and that 78% are interested in learning more about cooking meals that are both healthy and taste good.
"Mothers know what they want for their children, but life gets in the way," said Hilary Knott, public health nutritionist for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in Rock Island County.
Knott said most of her clients love getting the coupons for healthy foods that are distributed by her offices.
"They love the food in the grocery stores, they love the summer markets, but time and, sometimes, their kids' desires, affect their choices," she said.
Misconceptions about low-income people abound, she said, referencing the Share Our Strength study. First of all, most WIC program participants either work or are in school.
That means the hungriest people around may well be employed.
The low-income group most likely to be hungry is single men younger than 65 years old, said Knott, a nutritionist who has been in the profession for 20 years.
Programs such as WIC and SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, certainly help, but they cover only part of the cost of feeding a family.
"We counsel inexpensive meals. But the less expensive the meal, the more time it takes to prepare," Knott said. So time is an element for these low-income working mothers.
And when low-income people are evicted from their home, that can lead to the loss of cooking utensils.
"If you are evicted, you have no access to your things," Knott said. In such instances, the WIC counselors suggest the use of inexpensive canned fruits and vegetables and making food on hot plates if necessary.
The Share Our Strength study -- "It's Dinnertime: A Report on Low-Income Families' Efforts to Plan, Shop for and Cook Healthy Meals" -- shows that eight in 10 poor families make dinner at home at least five times a week. Most of the time, these dinners are cooked from scratch. They use easy-to-prepare packaged foods on other nights.