by: Kamila Czebotar
I’ve been working with the Critical Food Studies lab since October of 2019; while most of my work at the lab has been assistive, from data digging to paper reviewing, I am also positioned between the critical food studies lab and the Sustainable Food Systems Science team. I am currently working with the “Complex Food Provisioning Strategies and Food Insecurity among Low-Income Older Americans” project. Our main research objectives are determining what food insecurity looks like in older Americans, how different times of the year (as well as changes throughout their lives) affect food security, and what food programs around local and rural south-central Indiana exist and how they might be improved.
As part of this work, I was involved in attending focus groups in 4 different counties with service providers and seniors in the area, and from these groups I gained a better understanding of how food insecurity affects seniors. One major finding I have taken away from the focus groups is how physical barriers affect food insecurity, including personal health issues (like mobility or chronic diseases) as well as physical access (for example transportation); Other important issues came up, such as the financial accessibility of food and how living alone affects eating habits. Through all these and other obstacles, however, seniors in south central Indiana have adapted to these common food insecurity issues by supporting each other in number of ways, including sharing meals and rides, learning how to adapt to income differences through stretching food, sales, and the use of food pantries, meal sites, and SNAP. Lastly, we gained information on the problems and recommendations of local assistance programs, including the loss of meal sites, rules that restrict services, and critiques of the quality of foods offered in these programs.
After attending these focus groups my work involved creating summaries and transcribing the audio for further analysis, and headway into the next phase of the project: coding the transcripts through Nvivo and working with a smaller team to compare findings and outline the main themes of the focus groups. As we have wrapped up the focus groups our next phase involved creating and sending out surveys to a larger population of older Americans in rural Indiana.
In the midst of creating the survey, COVID-19 hit Indiana and our team decided to include questions relevant to circumstances before and during the COVID-19 crisis to better understand the impact the virus has on food security amongst seniors. We hope to gain more information through the survey answers as well as the post-survey interviews we plan to conduct this summer. While working with this team I have learned many new skills like qualitative analysis of transcripts, holding focus groups, and creating a survey; I hope to continue gaining skills as we further our research this summer and fall.