FEAST: Empowering Community Residents to Use Technology to Assess and Advocate for Healthy Food Environments
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Creating environments that support healthy eating is important for successful aging, particularly in light of the growing population of older adults in the United States. There is an urgent need to identify innovative upstream solutions to barriers experienced by older adults in accessing and buying healthy food. FEAST (Food Environment Assessment STudy) is an effort that is part of the global Our Voice initiative, which utilizes a combination of technology and community-engaged methods to empower citizen scientists (i.e., community residents) to: (1) use the Healthy Neighborhood Discovery Tool (Discovery Tool) mobile application to collect data (geocoded photos, audio narratives) about aspects of their environment that facilitate or hinder healthy living; and (2) use findings to advocate for change in partnership with local decision and policy makers. In FEAST, 23 racially/ethnically diverse, low-income, and food-insecure older adults residing in urban, North San Mateo County, CA, were recruited to use the Discovery Tool to examine factors that facilitated or hindered their access to food as well as their food-related behaviors. Participants collectively reviewed data retrieved from the Discovery Tool and identified and prioritized important, yet feasible, issues to address. Access to affordable healthy food and transportation were identified as the major barriers to eating healthfully and navigating their neighborhood food environments. Subsequently, participants were trained in advocacy skills and shared their findings with relevant decision and policymakers, who in turn dispelled myths and discussed and shared resources to address relevant community needs. Proximal and distal effects of the community-engaged process at 3, 6, 12, and 24 months were documented and revealed individual-, community-, and policy-level impacts. Finally, FEAST contributes to the evidence on multi-level challenges that low-income, racially/ethnically diverse older adults experience when accessing, choosing and buying healthy foods.
KeywordsFood environment Food access Community-based participatory research Mobile health Urban health Minority health Advocacy Food security Aging
We greatly acknowledge and thank the FEAST citizen scientists, as well as the assistance and support of the following individuals and organizations in FEAST activities: Marigold Vu, Leah Mamaril, Martell Hesketh, Nkeiruka Umeh, Angela Waters, Angelo Ignacio, Beverly Karnatz, Linda Coleman, Doris Estremera, Jennifer Gross, Jasneet Sharma, Cristina Ugaitafa, Arlene Aquino, Susan Takalo, Pat Bohm, as well as San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, San Mateo County Health System, Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, the United Way of the Bay Area, San Mateo Transportation District, San Mateo Mobility Ambassadors, Daly City Partnership, Get Up and Go Transportation Service, and local community and senior centers in North San Mateo County, California.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
FEAST was supported in part by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health (NIH) (UL1RR025774) through two Clinical Translational Science Seed Grants awarded through the Stanford Office of Community Health (King, and Winter), and Get Healthy San Mateo County Implementation Funding (King and Sheats). Sheats was funded in part by the US Public Health Service Grant 5T32HL007034 from the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute and by Award K12HD043451 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) Scholar Program (Krousel-Wood-PI). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. Dr. Winter was funded in part by the US Public Health Service Grant 5T32HL007034 from the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute for this research. As the Director of the Wellness Living Laboratory (WELL) at Stanford School of Medicine she was also funded through an unrestricted gift for WELL from Amway to Stanford University from the Nutrilite Health Institute Wellness Fund.
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