Food Security, Perceptions of Food Neighborhood Environment, and Dietary Quality in Women Residing in the Mexico-US border
Objective: Migration to the United States (U.S.) has been associated with food insecurity and detrimental changes in diet quality. How these changes affect women in context of their neighborhood food environment has not been thoroughly explored. This study aimed to assess if food security is associated with diet quality and to explore if perceived food availability moderates this purported association in a sample of Mexican immigrant women.
Methods: Mexican-born women (n=57, 41±7 years) residing in the U.S. for more than 1 year self-reported food security status, monthly fast-food frequency, and their perception of fruit, vegetables, and low-fat product availability within their neighborhood via survey. Diet was assessed using the Southwest Food Frequency Questionnaire to estimate intake of fruit, vegetables, salty snacks, sugar, and healthy eating index (HEI)-2015 score. Bivariate correlations assessed the relationships between study variables. Independent samples t-tests compared dietary outcomes between women classified as food secure (n=41; high or marginal food security) and food insecure (n=16; low or very low food security). A moderation analysis assessed the effect of the perception of the neighborhood food environment on the relationship between food security and HEI-2015 score.
Results: Fifty four percent of participants worked full time and 42% had a monthly household income <$2,000. Time residing in the U.S. was 20±9 years. Relative to women classified as food secure, participants experiencing food insecurity had lower HEI-2015 (61±8 vs. 66±6; p=0.03). Albeit not significantly different, women experiencing food insecurity reported lower intake of fruit (236±178 vs. 294±239 g), vegetables (303±188 vs. 331±199 g), and salty snacks (6±5 vs. 8±10 g), as well as higher intake of sugar (99±55 vs. 96±56 g) and fast food (2.5±2.5 vs. 1.8±1.7 times per month); p>0.05 for all. Among women experiencing food insecurity, there was a trend for a lower perception of neighborhood fruit, vegetable and low-fat product availability being associated with lower HEI-2015 scores (54±6) relative to those who perceived moderate (63±6) or high (65±8) neighborhood availability of those foods (p=0.07).
Conclusions: HEI-2015 scores were associated with participants’ food security status. Findings suggest a need for better understanding of how neighborhood food availability may affect diet quality among Mexican immigrant women experiencing food insecurity.