What Rural Women Want the Public Health Community to Know About Access to Healthful Food: A Qualitative Study, 2011
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What Rural Women Want the Public Health Community to Know About Access to Healthful Food: A Qualitative Study, 2011

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    Living in a rural food desert has been linked to poor dietary habits. Understanding community perspectives about available resources and feasible solutions may inform strategies to improve food access in rural food deserts. The objective of our study was to identify resources and solutions to the food access problems of women in rural, southernmost Illinois.


    Fourteen focus groups with women (n = 110 participants) in 4 age groups were conducted in a 7-county region as part of a community assessment focused on women’s health. We used content analysis with inductive and deductive approaches to explore food access barriers and facilitators.


    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. Participants identified existing local activities and resources that help to increase access, such as home and community gardens, food pantries, and public transportation, as well as local solutions, such as improving nutrition education and public transportation options.


    Multilevel and collaborative strategies and policies are needed to address food access barriers in rural communities. At the individual level, education may help residents navigate geographic and economic barriers. Community solutions include collaborative strategies to increase availability of healthful foods through traditional and nontraditional food sources. Policy change is needed to promote local agriculture and distribution of privately grown food. Understanding needs and strengths in rural communities will ensure responsive and effective strategies to improve the rural food environment.

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