248992 Making ends meet without a public safety net: Experiences of food insecurity among undocumented Latino immigrants

Monday, October 31, 2011: 9:06 AM

Tiffani Stevenson, MS , Department of Family Science, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Ashley L. Munger, BA , Department of Family Science, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Stephanie Grutzmacher, PhD , Department of Family Studies, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Maintaining food security, or the acquisition of sufficient, safe, and nutritional foods in socially acceptable ways, has long been a difficult task for the most vulnerable factions of the population. In response, the U.S. government has provided a safety net of resources, like food stamps, for those with insufficient means to buy food. Nonetheless, undocumented immigrants are explicitly denied access to this safety net, which may exacerbate food insecurity. Risk factors, such as low levels of education, low income, limited English proficiency, and Latino ethnicity may partially explain the high rates of food insecurity among Latino immigrants in the U.S. However, due to a combination of these risk factors and a non-existent government safety net, undocumented Latino immigrants might be particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. The present study examined the experiences of food insecurity for a sample of 32 adult undocumented Latino immigrants who live in a suburb of Washington, DC. Close to 97% of the participants reported very low or low food security, yet none had received food stamps. Using a grounded theory approach, the text from the in-depth qualitative interviews were analyzed and coded to understand the experience of food insecurity without government support. Emergent themes centered on the barriers and stressors that impacted food acquisition, strategies utilized to make ends meet and cope with food insecurity, and their perceptions and knowledge of government aid programs. Policymakers and program planners should consider the unique needs and experiences of this population regarding food security when creating interventions and policy.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe the unique experience of food insecurity for a sample of low-income and undocumented Latino immigrants. Evaluate the coping strategies used by low-income Latino immigrants to afford and acquire adequate food. Identify the implications of Latino immigrantsí access to public safety net programs.

Keywords: Access Immigration, Food Security

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present this information because I contributed to the development of this research, personally collected these data, coded and analyzed these data and have extensive knowledge of these findings.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.