Barriers and Solutions to Achieving Food Security for New Zealand Families

22 Nov 2011

Food insecurity is defined as: "limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited ability to acquire acceptable foods in a socially acceptable way" (Anderson, 1990). Food insecurity is associated with poorer nutritional outcomes and in the 2002 New Zealand Children's Nutrition Survey half of households studied reported food insecurity (Parnell, 2005). The aims of the Family Food Environment Survey were to describe environmental and behavioural factors of New Zealand families with respect to access to food, food purchasing, meal planning and patterns and to examine how these factors might differ by socio-economic status and their relationship to food security status. The FFES was a cross-sectional survey (October 2007- October 2008) among 136 New Zealand families with children living in Dunedin and Wellington. The household food preparer was interviewed regarding access to food, food purchasing and meal planning and preparation. Each household collected food shopping receipts for two weeks to examine food expenditure. All variables were been compared by income group (low: <$30,0000, medium: 30,000-69,000, high: >$70,000) and by food security status. Food security was measured using validated statements from the 1997 National Nutrition Survey. Eighty seven percent of low-income households reported food insecurity. Absolute spending on food was significantly lower for food insecure households compared to food secure households ($55.64 vs. $45.13 p=0.012) and for low-income households compared to the high-income group ($38.69 vs. $51.14 p<0.0001). Few behaviours were found to be associated with food security status or income group. Approximately one hour was spent on meal preparation and cleaning up for main meals every day and this was similar across the groups. Physical access to food shops was not a barrier to food security; however lack of money was. Following from the FFES, the aim of the Spend Study was to examine the effect of providing additional money to food insecure households on food expenditure. The Spend Study was a randomised controlled intervention trial, conducted in Dunedin, New Zealand. Participants (n=151) were low-income (<NZ$45,000 per year) food insecure households with at least one child (<18 years). The voucher group received supermarket vouchers for four weeks. All households collected food receipts for four weeks during a baseline phase and during the intervention phase. Differences in expenditure between the voucher group and control group were examined using ANCOVA with the inclusion of baseline expenditure as a covariate. The voucher group spent $15.20 (95% CI: 1.46, 28.94; p=0.03) more on food during the intervention phase compared to the control group. There were no statistically significant differences found between the voucher group and the control group for the individual food groups examined. Results showed that when provided with additional money in the form of supermarket voucher food insecure households spent most of it on food. Addressing financial barriers in public heath initiatives is critical to ensure that they are successful.

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