Topical Area: Global Nutrition
The objective of this study was to understand needs among seniors for food and food assistance and to develop a comprehensive taxonomy for these needs.
A total of 147 seniors were purposively sampled from 12 food-assistance programs in 9 states. Of the 12 programs, 10 provided unprepared foods and 2 provided pre-cooked meals. Data were semi-structured qualitative interviews. Coding and analysis of transcripts followed an inductive qualitative analysis approach. A series of thematic summaries were prepared to reflect the content of the interviews for discussion and refinement of the analytic approach.
Results : An emergent taxonomy comprised 3 categories consisting of abilities and ranges or variants of those abilities. The category of physical ability consists of physical strength, the ability to prepare food, the ability to walk or stand, and health status. These relate to an individual’s functional abilities to live and act independently and may be considered pre-conditions for program uptake and benefit distinct from dietary and food security-related needs and limitations. The category of consuming food consists of preferences, accessibility, affordability, and dietary needs. This category highlights the relationship between economic constraints and dietary needs that often necessitates meaningful tradeoffs in consuming the right foods for their health. The category of access and use of transportation consists of own means, friends or family, and public or private services. This category highlights challenges in accessing programs and provides insight into seniors’ experiences of poverty, declining functional abilities, social networks and connectedness, geography, and public services.
The process used to develop the taxonomy and the taxonomy itself provide an exemplar for implementation research when the nature of need is complex and programs integrated across sectors are required to address the need. The taxonomy provides structure to facilitate the identification of key factors in program engagement—and insight into the economic and social environments in which they occur —that translate into needs relevant to the design, targeting, and uptake of food assistance in a diverse population of seniors.
Funding Sources : Enterprise Rent-a-Car Foundation