Low-Income Families Struggle to Eat Healthy

February 2, 2012

3 Min Read
Low-Income Families Struggle to Eat Healthy

NEW YORKLow-income families are cooking dinner at home, mostly from scratch, but are not eating as healthfully as they'd like, according to a new study released today from Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters® with support from the ConAgra Foods® Foundation.

According to It's Dinnertime: A Report on Low-Income Families' Efforts to Plan, Shop for and Cook Healthy Meals", launched in collaboration with chef, cookbook author and television host Sara Moulton, cost is the most commonly cited barrier to making healthy meals. The report also revealed a majority of families are satisfied with the quality and variety of available healthy grocery items, and low-income families that regularly plan meals and budget for food are able to make healthy meals more often.

"It's clear that even families with limited resources are making healthy eating a priority, but there's a gap between their healthy aspirations and their ability to put nourishing meals on the table most days," said Janet McLaughlin, director of Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters. "Simple strategies, like writing a grocery list or comparing unit prices at the store, can help narrow that gap."

Share Our Strength offers cooking, shopping and nutrition education to families at risk of hunger across the country through Cooking Matters. The program is part of the No Kid Hungry® Campaign, which works to increase access to public food and nutrition programs and educate families on how to get more from their food resources. The average graduate from Share Our Strength's six-week Cooking Matters for Adults course plans meals ahead of time 55% more often, shops with a grocery list 50% more often and runs out of food 20% less often.

"Our philanthropic strategy involves investing in proven nonprofit organizations with innovative approaches to fighting child hunger, like educating families on how to get the most nutritional value from their food budgets," said Kori Reed, vice president, Cause and Foundation for ConAgra Foods. "One of the ways we accomplish this is by funding research, such as this study, to better understand the challenges low-income families face and, in turn, better invest in programs that are poised to help communities overcome hunger and food insecurity."

Other key findings from the research include:

  • 8 in 10 families eat dinner at home at least five times a week. As income decreases, the frequency of eating dinner made at home increases.

  • 85% of the families surveyed said that eating healthy meals is important to them, and two-thirds of families are interested in learning about cooking healthy meals.

  • 40% of families who say eating healthy meals is important are not providing healthy meals most days.  While families are largely satisfied with the variety (61%) and quality (64%) of healthy grocery items available to them, only 30% are satisfied with price. Time is a barrier for some families, especially those where the food decision maker works fulltime.

  • Low-income families that regularly plan meals, write grocery lists and budget for food make healthy meals from scratch more often (more than five times a week) than those who don't.

  • While 81% of low-income parents rated fresh produce as extremely healthy, that rating drops down to 32% when it comes to frozen fruits and vegetables and 12% with canned fruits and vegetables.

  • 50% of families are extremely interested in learning more about cooking healthy meals, and two out of three families are interested and four in 10 are extremely interested in learning how to better budget for meals.

Subscribe and receive the latest insights on the health and nutrition industry.
Join 37,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like