Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 991–999 | Cite as

Healthful, Cultural Foods and Safety Net Use Among Cambodian and Brazilian Immigrant Communities in Massachusetts

  • L. S. CordeiroEmail author
  • L. Sibeko
  • J. Nelson-Peterman
Original Paper


Declining health and food security status among low-income immigrants in the U.S. may result from limited access to healthful, cultural foods and safety net programs. We held focus group discussions with low-income Cambodian and Brazilian immigrants (11 groups, n = 84) living in Massachusetts. Cambodians and Brazilians valued healthful, cultural foods, emphasizing their beliefs that cultural foods are healthier and beneficial for weight management and aging. Although both groups could access these foods, some individuals had difficulty affording them. Cambodians reported that food quality decreased over the month due to inadequate resources. Cambodians relied on SNAP, WIC, families, and food pantries; however, Brazilians generally did not participate in safety net programs. Barriers to accessing and using safety nets appear to limit diet quality for some immigrant families. Targeted nutrition interventions should build on current knowledge of and desire for healthful, cultural foods in the context of available safety nets.


Immigrants Food security Safety nets Health Cultural foods 



The authors thank Ronnie Mouth, Rasy An, and Rosanne Brennan for translations of focus groups.


This research was funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Agriculture and the Environment under project numbers MAS00991 and MAS00994, and by the Wellesley Centers for Women.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Lorraine Cordeiro, Lindiwe Sibeko, and Jerusha Nelson-Peterman have no conflict of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.210B Chenoweth Laboratory, Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health and Health SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  2. 2.204 Chenoweth Lab, Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health and Health SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  3. 3.Department of Food and NutritionFramingham State UniversityFraminghamUSA

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