I started by working with the Immigrant Welcome Center (IWC) in order to get a better idea of how COVID-19 has been impacting the immigrant population and what Gleaners can do to help. The IWC reported that 38% of the immigrant population surveyed considered themselves to have less food security compared to before the pandemic. With more data from the IWC, I looked into Marion County zip codes with the highest numbers of immigrants reporting a need for food or rental assistance. This was an important step in my initial research that helped us better understand where immigrants are located and what resources are currently available to them. I continued by looking into how many American grocery stores, international grocery stores, convenience stores, food pantries, and food deserts are in these areas.
I also talked to IWC Natural Helpers (immigrants who volunteer to assist other immigrants), read research articles on food insecurity and food pantries pertaining to immigrant populations, and joined the IWC weekly partner calls. Through all of this information-gathering, I learned that there are several barriers that many immigrants face in consistently accessing nutritious foods. These include:
Image from IWC
These barriers fall into three categories:
All three categories of barriers must be addressed in order to create stable and sustainable solutions to food insecurity among immigrants.
What I learned from this experience:
From my background research, I learned that increasing access to foods that are familiar to immigrant households is crucial for improving food security among this population. I explored some ways that Gleaners might be able to partner with international grocery stores to increase the availability of culturally and religiously appropriate foods at pantries. I decided to visit an international grocery store myself to see how the selection of foods might differ from what is typically available at a traditional "American" grocery store. Watch the video below for a 30-second tour of the Saraga International Food Market that I visited on the northwest side of Indianapolis.
There were two key differences that stood out to me from my visit:
Images from Allison Drook and saragaindy.com
Exploring New Foods:
Wanting to look into more about foods from other cultures, I ended up buying some Fufu flour from the international market. This food comes from Nigerian culture and contains some of their staple foods: mashed plantain, potato granules, cassava, saffron and turmeric. I chose to focus on this culture because Nigeria is listed as one of the top countries of origin for immigrants served by the IWC, and I was not familiar with many of the common foods in this cuisine. Watch the video below to see how easy Fu Fu dough is to make!
Click the links below to view the other recipes and handouts that I made during this rotation. These were all designed to help immigrants utilize the foods they might receive from food pantries, as well as to introduce some new cultural dishes to anyone who likes to explore different cuisines!
I am excited to see how Gleaners continues this collaborative and important work! Some next steps for Gleaners and IWC include exploring ways to source more culturally appropriate foods and spices, helping agency pantries be more welcoming and inclusive of immigrant clients, and translating recipes and educational resources in different languages. Stay up-to-date on the progress of this project and other nutrition outreach programs by visiting the NutritionHub website, Facebook page, and Instagram account regularly!
Staff Registered Dietitians at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, along with guest blog posts by dietetic interns