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!
Food pantries serve populations with high rates of chronic disease. Providing and promoting a variety of healthy foods to clients can help prevent and manage chronic diseases to reduce this added burden on our communities.
Image from https://hungerandhealth.feedingamerica.org/
What are nutrition nudges?
Nutrition nudges are subtle environmental cues that change consumer behaviors. The purpose of nudges is to encourage consumers to choose healthy, nutritious items by making the healthy choice the easiest choice. They are effective, low-cost ways to promote nutrition in pantries by providing nutrition education and increasing the distribution of healthy foods.
Key nudge strategies include:
For example, highlighting “Heart Healthy” and “Diabetes Friendly” foods with shelf tags, adding color to walls and shelves, and providing recipe cards and educational handouts are all great ways to nudge clients.
2019 IUPUI Dietetic Intern Angel Gomez stands near a display of bags of dried lentils. The shelf tag above the product reads:
"Lentils are a delicious way to boost protein and fiber in your meals."
Which foods should be nudged in pantries?
Foods low in added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat should be encouraged for optimal health. These include:
Eating a variety of foods from all the food groups of MyPlate supports a healthy, well-balanced diet and can decrease the risk of developing chronic diseases.
How do I get started with nudges?
Consider starting with a simple change to the layout of your pantry. Place healthy foods first in the shopping line or in easy-to-access areas at eye level. Place foods to limit at the end of the shopping line or in harder-to-reach places on shelves.
Interested in learning more?
Click here for recipes, nutrition education handouts and more.
Click here for more information on nudges, training resources, and sample nudge materials.
This blog post was written by Morgan Belt, IUPUI Dietetic Intern, as part of her internship capstone project. Other activities that Morgan assisted with during her month-long capstone project included:
We are so grateful for all of Morgan’s hard work and contributions, and we wish her the very best in her future as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)!
IUPUI Dietetic Interns Taylor Wilson (left) and Morgan Belt (right) presented a recipe demo for
chickpea tacos at the Gleaners Community Cupboard food pantry in January 2020
Staff Registered Dietitians at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, along with guest blog posts by dietetic interns