Poverty and food intake in rural America: diet quality is lower in food insecure adults in the Mississippi Delta

Catherine M Champagne, Patrick H Casey, Carol L Connell, Janice E Stuff, Jeffrey M Gossett, David W Harsha, Beverly McCabe-Sellers, James M Robbins, Pippa M Simpson, Judith L Weber, Margaret L Bogle et al.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2007, 107 (11): 1886-94

OBJECTIVE: To determine if measures of diet quality differ between food insecure and food secure adults in a rural high-risk population.

DESIGN: Random digit dialing telephone survey of a cross-section of the population designed to collect data on food intake, household demographics, and food security status.

SETTING: A representative sample of adults who live in 36 counties in the Lower Mississippi Delta region of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

SUBJECTS: One thousand six hundred seven adults, both white and African American.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Food security status and diet quality, as defined by adherence to the Healthy Eating Index and Dietary Reference Intakes by determinations from self-reported food intake (1 day intake).

STATISTICAL ANALYSES: Regression analysis, t tests, Wald statistic, and beta tests were employed.

RESULTS: Food secure adults scored higher on Healthy Eating Index than food insecure adults (P=0.0001), but the regression model showed no differences when multiple factors were included. Food secure individuals consistently achieved higher percentages of the Dietary Reference Intakes (specifically Estimated Average Requirements and Adequate Intakes) than food insecure individuals, with the greatest differences seen for vitamin A (P<0.0001), copper (P=0.0009), and zinc (P=0.0022) and very little difference for vitamins C (P=0.68) and E (P=0.32). Both populations consumed diets extremely low in fiber.

CONCLUSIONS: Food insecurity is associated with lower quality diets in this population. It is acknowledged that serious limitations are associated with the use of one 24-hour recall and for comparison between food intake and assessment of food security. These findings still suggest a pressing need for nutrition interventions to improve dietary intake in these at-risk impoverished individuals.

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