To improve food access in underserved neighborhoods, it is crucial to incorporate community voices in neighborhood development planning. Addressing issues recognized in their neighborhoods has the potential to reduce barriers to get healthy foods, thereby increasing food access.
To understand community residents’ perspectives on food access and barriers to get healthy and nutritious foods in underserved neighborhoods in Tampa, FL.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
A qualitative study utilizing focus group discussions. Community residents in low-income, predominantly African American neighborhoods in Tampa, Florida participated. Forty-eight participants attended 9 focus group sessions with 3-9 people in each session.
Focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and coded for priori and emergent themes using NVivo software.
Participants identified where they shopped for the majority of their foods. Most participants indicated that they drive to get to major grocery stores, but many also indicated that they use public transportation. Most people who go to multiple stores indicated price is the main reason. “You go where it's – the value for the money like in reference to if you have buy one get one free, it's better quality when you're living on a fixed income to stretch your money from month to month.” Another reason was “convenience,” and some people mentioned that they go to an alternative store to get better quality foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Participants mentioned transportation, distance to the store, traffic, and accessibility as key barriers. High price, quality of food, customer service or environment of the store, and lack of nutritional knowledge were also barriers to choosing healthier foods. Several ideas to improve food access issues in their neighborhoods emerged, including having a new grocery store and farmer's market.
Community residents recognized barriers to get healthy and fresh foods in the target neighborhoods. Based on the findings, short- and long-term solutions have been discussed among community residents, leaders, and stakeholders.