Planting the seed: Food sources

Ongoing study looks at relationship between socioeconomic status and food choice
Thursday, November 10, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 3:06 p.m. CST, Thursday, November 10, 2011

COLUMBIA — Whitney Martin, a nursing student at MU, spent a recent Saturday at Wabash Station, asking people where they buy their food and why.

Of the four she had talked to, most said they shop at Walmart regularly; one person had spent about $25 to $40 on food at a convenience store. 

"Your socioeconomic status has very much to do with how you eat and your weight," Martin said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children who grow up in low-income families are more likely to be obese, even if the county in which they live has the lowest prevalence of obesity.

Martin's work is part of another project unfolding under Unite 4 Healthy Neighborhoods — a food survey administered by the MU Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems.

On-site interviewers asked people health questions about their demographics, food insecurity, where they purchase food and how often they consume fresh fruits and vegetables.

"If you're going somewhere to buy cigarettes or alcohol or gasoline for your car, are you getting your family's dinner there?" said Michelle Kaiser, a doctoral candidate and research assistant for the center.

The study examines alternative food sources: Buying produce from a farmers market, gardening or hunting. It also looks at how far food sources are from a person's home and how people get to shopping centers. Ideally, the survey will map out food resources in the community, Kaiser said.

The survey is posted on SurveyMonkey, and the site address is advertised on fliers around town. The site will most likely remain active until mid-November, Kaiser said.

The purpose of the survey is to identify needs in the community and try to find resources to meet those needs. For example, if there is a neighborhood that has limited access to fresh produce, maybe a supplier can set up a mini-market in that area.

"We don't want this just to end with a fancy report," Kaiser said. "Everyone should have access to healthy food. If there's something that we see that's not going well, then we've got to do something about it."

Next page | Safer neighborhoods lead to a more active, vibrant Columbia

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