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Some women discussed alternatives to grocery stores, such as gas stations, convenience stores, and fast-food restaurants; however, they indicated the alternatives often lacked healthful choices. Low-income status was also identified as a barrier to healthful food access. Broader societal norms also affected access. Because of multiple responsibilities in the household and working outside of the home, women had limited time and energy. Because of competing priorities, some were unable to spend time on meal preparation and relied on fast food and eating outside the home.

Participants also described numerous existing resources and proposed solutions to food access challenges Table 3. Personal, community, and school gardens were described as both existing resources and proposed solutions to increase food access, because they were seen as a way to fill gaps left by local grocery stores by providing fresh and attractive foods for consumers.

Some participants with home gardens described sharing garden bounty with friends, neighbors, and other community members, and others stated that they regularly preserved food from their gardens so that they had access to these foods when gardening was not feasible. They suggested community classes about gardening, food preservation eg, canning , and quick and healthful food preparation as solutions to increase local access to healthful food. One participant suggested setting up a market for community members to distribute and sell excess produce. Participants mentioned 2 mass transit companies that alleviate transportation issues in the S7 region.

For homebound people, women described food delivery programs, such as Meals-on-Wheels, that provided services in the region. Several participants suggested that the mass transit services could be expanded to assist residents in accessing grocery stores and supermarkets. Participants spoke of numerous food access resources and solutions particularly pertinent to low-income populations. Many described a sense of a close-knit community and altruistic actions. For example, faith- and community-based organizations distributed food to people through local foods banks and meal services.

Participants suggested that community resources for low-income people should be better publicized to increase community awareness. Participants also proposed solutions related to civic action and policy change to increase food access in their communities. For example, they suggested that community members form coalitions to reduce problems associated with food access.

Participants also suggested voicing concerns with government representatives about the impact of cuts in food supplement and assistance programs. Our findings suggest that rural communities such as those in the S7 region in Illinois have insufficient local sources of healthful foods, which contributes to poor dietary habits and the need to travel for healthful foods. This need to travel places a burden on segments of the population who have difficulty accessing transportation eg, low-income residents.

Additionally, working women who are often responsible for shopping and cooking may also be burdened by the lack of local access to healthful foods in their communities, potentially affecting their own dietary habits and those of their family members. Focus group participants mentioned local activities eg, gardening and hunting and local resources eg, food pantries and public transportation as ways to help increase food access.

Therefore, multilevel, coordinated, collaborative strategies are needed to increase access. At the individual level, behavior change interventions and education strategies, both of which have been associated with positive changes in dietary habits, could be implemented to mitigate the geographic and economic barriers to food access 20 , Education, mentioned as both an existing resource and suggested solution, focusing on topics such as gardening, food preservation, produce shelf life, and healthful alternatives to fresh produce eg, frozen, canned could reduce reliance on local stores and reduce the need for frequent travel.

Education on quick, easy, and healthful meal preparation using the range of available options and choices may reduce consumption of fast food and improve nutrition habits Federal agencies, such as the US Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provide toolkits and resources that can be used for educational purposes. The American Dietetic Association recommends including food and nutrition education in programs that address food insecurity Additionally, because focus group participants acknowledged that S7 residents consume fast foods, increasing knowledge about healthful fast-food options may assist rural residents in making more healthful choices.

Collaborative implementation of these strategies in community-based settings can maximize reach. Improving the food environment, particularly if done in combination with educational strategies, has the potential for even greater impact on rural communities than solitary, individual-level health education strategies. Current community resources in S7 counties include farmers markets, food banks, faith-based and other organizations that provide meals, and community and school gardens.

Innovative, collaborative solutions that include grocery stores, gas stations, and convenience stores may help to increase availability of healthful foods at the local level. For example, small stores could work together with a common food distributor to purchase food in bulk at a lower price than they can buy food individually and then sell to customers at a lower price. Additionally, local stores could collaborate with farmers in the region that grow and produce food to offer healthful, locally sourced options.

Stores can also commit to offering more healthful items on sale. Working with local stores to encourage the sale of healthful food may be combined with food preparation demonstrations and distribution of healthful recipes. Furthermore, research indicates 1 that rural corner store owners are receptive to stocking healthful food such as fruits and vegetables and 2 that customers are willing to purchase them Additional strategies to make locally grown and organic foods accessible include collecting and distributing fresh produce, such as garden surplus, through local food pantries.

This strategy would require providing equipment to food pantries for handling and storing perishable foods. Previous efforts targeting food pantries increased access and consumption of fruits and vegetables Mobile food pantries may also be considered 10 , Additionally, innovative food-waste reduction and recovery programs could further support access to food. In these new models, excess food from grocery stores and restaurants are redistributed to food-insecure people Local food growers could also be encouraged to sell fresh and healthful foods at local farmers markets Faith- and community-based organizations, described as resources by focus group participants, can be supported to form programs or coalitions that address food access, because these are often natural resource points and health partners in rural communities 26 , Policy change related to food access should also be considered 28 — Policies, codes, and zoning laws should be created, modified, or reviewed to promote the distribution and sale of homegrown food.

Doing so may ensure that agriculture operations, food production, and farmers markets are able to operate on a neighborhood scale. This study has several limitations. First, participants were not selected randomly. Although a broad range of ages was included, participants may not fully represent the diversity in southernmost Illinois.


Additionally, some participants worked in health care or social service fields, which may have influenced their perspectives about health needs in the community. Some participants previously participated in an intervention in the community to reduce cardiovascular disease risk, which may have biased their responses about dietary behavior. Additionally, because the focus groups were limited to women, responses may not be generalizable to men or children in the region.

Our findings suggest that additional research is needed to assess the landscape of rural food deserts and to learn about food availability, costs, and purchasing behaviors. The impact of community gardens, school-based gardens, and farmers markets in rural communities on food access should also be examined.

The utility of alternative food access points, such as gas stations and convenience stores, should be investigated, because these may be feasible alternatives in rural and low-density populations with limited food access. Additionally, the integration of alternatives to fresh options, such as frozen fruits and vegetables, into rural diets could be examined. Given the rising rates of chronic diseases in the United States, understanding the association between food access and chronic disease may help public health practitioners better understand how to address needs at the community and individual level.

We must also consider that the effects of food deserts go beyond the distance required to travel and the availability of foods.

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The impact of food deserts on food access is also related to social and economic factors. Interventions and policies aimed at increasing food access in rural food deserts may consider these social and economic factors. No one approach can solve the problem entirely. Public health researchers and practitioners must consider a combination of structural, economic, and individual behavior changes to adequately reduce the adverse health effects caused by rural food deserts.

This article was made possible by grant nos. Before participants arrive, spread the ice breaker pictures on a table.

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As participants come in welcome them, direct them to the refreshments, and give them instructions for the icebreaker exercise. This will give participants something to do while the women gather. I would like you to pick up any 2 pictures from the table that represent health to you. Once you find 2 pictures you can take a seat, and we will get started once everyone is seated. To start, I would like to ask each of you to introduce yourself and tell us why you were interested in coming to this meeting. Then show us the pictures you chose and tell us what they mean to you — how they represent health to you.

So that we have time to complete the whole discussion I will ask each of you to limit yourselves to minutes. Now I would like to get your perspectives about the health and health needs of the Southern Seven population in general and women in particular. What does health mean to you as a woman? Think about your various roles as a woman — a mother, daughter, wife, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend, etc.

A community can be the people living in a town, members of a church or club, students that attend a particular school — or their parents, people who work at a particular location, people who regularly shop at a particular store, eat at a particular restaurant, or receive services at a particular hospital or clinic. You probably belong to more than one community. For the next part of the discussion, think about one community that you are a part of that is located within the southern seven counties.

What do you think are the most significant health needs or health problems in your community? Is there anything being done to solve the health problems that you talked about? The Southern Seven Health Department recently identified heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer as health conditions that need to be addressed in your region.

Do you think these are important issues to be addressed? Are there health needs or health concerns that specifically affect young girls or teen girls in your community? Does everyone in your community have access to health care services that they need? If not, which groups do not have access and why? What do you see as the strengths in your community that can help people be healthy or stay healthy? Are there services, organizations, resources, facilities? Before we end, does anyone have anything they would like to add to the discussion? Or, does anyone have questions for me?

Thank you for taking the time to participate! The opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the U. Suggested citation for this article: A Qualitative Study, Prev Chronic Dis ; National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Prev Chronic Dis v.

"From the Garden Club: Rural Women Writing Community" by Christine Pawley

Published online Apr This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Introduction Living in a rural food desert has been linked to poor dietary habits.

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  6. Results Similar to participants in previous studies, participants in our study reported insufficient local food sources, which they believe contributed to poor dietary habits, high food prices, and the need to travel for healthful food. Conclusion Multilevel and collaborative strategies and policies are needed to address food access barriers in rural communities.

    Introduction Access to affordable, culturally suitable, and high-quality food within a reasonable distance of a residence has a positive association with more healthful diets in the United States 1 , 2. Methods We used an assets-focused resources and solutions approach to analyze data generated by focus groups in which women identified resources and solutions. Results A total of women participated in the 14 focus groups Table 1 ; the mean number per group was 7 participants range, 3—13 women.

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    Subtheme, County, Age Group Comment Physical barriers Pope or Hardin, a ages 31—50 y We have one grocery store here that you can get produce from, you know, we have no access. You have to drive. So, things that are. Economic barriers Pope or Hardin, a ages 18—30 y We can only afford to go to the grocery store, you know, once every 2 weeks or so. Women work out of the home, when they used to stay home and prepare better meals. Now we all go out to eat because more women work outside of the home.

    Other barriers Alexander, ages 31—50 y Participant 1: You can actually find mold. Level Subtheme a Quotes Representative of Subtheme b Individual Education about shopping on a budget, nutrition, and food preparation and preservation R, S. A teaching or a cooking class [to teach people how to cook in a healthful way]. And our food pantry actually delivers to, you know, 30 to 40 different shut-ins. Churches, give a lot of um, helping the poor, as far as food banks and giving them money.

    Well, if it was an organized, you know, [as a] free market. R, resource existing ; S, solution proposed. What do you think are important characteristics or features of a healthy community? Health Needs of the Community What do you think are the most significant health needs or health problems in your community? How are women affected by these needs or problems? Do you think more can be done? What kinds of things can be done? Access to Health Care Does everyone in your community have access to health care services that they need?

    Community Strengths What do you see as the strengths in your community that can help people be healthy or stay healthy? View all posts by Buffy J. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Skip to content January 8, March 17, Buffy J. What makes someone a writer?

    What kinds of responsibilities do you think writers might have when they belong to a writing group or workshop like this? How can someone be a positive and productive member of a writing community like this? How do you feel creative writing might change the world or have a positive impact in some way? What qualities and resources do you feel are important to have in order to write creatively? Published by Buffy J. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Email required Address never made public.

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