Incorporating local foods into low-income families’ home-cooking practices
The critical role of sustained economic subsidies
Alternative food practices, including farmers markets and CSAs, are often inaccessible to low-income families. Subsidized CSAs and fruit and vegetable prescription programs have the potential to decrease food insecurity, increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, and generate better health outcomes. However, several challenges can limit the success of such programs, including the logistics of distribution and an inability to cook from scratch due to a lack of kitchen infrastructure, time, or skills. In this paper, we investigate two diet-related health programs conducted with community partners in Madison, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon. We used photovoice to evaluate and enhance these programs, which supplied low-income participants with free or subsidized weekly shares of local food, addressed transportation barriers associated with access, and offered recipes and cooking education. Drawing on social practice theory, we demonstrate how these programs altered food provisioning practices for low-income individuals and families by building their competence in the kitchen, fostering meaningful social relationships, and cultivating new meanings related to fresh, local food. The short-term gains were positive, and such community-based nutrition programs warrant continued support as part of a broader strategy to address poverty and food insecurity.
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