Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Groups 5-8: Food Availability in Stores

These travel based groups will visit the following cities-
Group 5: Trenton
Group 6: Camden
Group 7: Newark
Group 8: New Brunswick

- and will report on food availability. They will use the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) Survey (found on the USDA website) as a guideline for measuring food availability. The Thrifty Food Plan indicates how much and what kinds of food a family of four needs throughout a week in order to receive a healthy nutritious diet. Each group member will be visiting grocery stores, counting food, and computing the percent of food missing relative to the Thrifty Food Plan. They will later compare the data that they collect among each other, and with the national average. Each member’s final work will include photographs, a report on the specific aspect of food availability that he/she chose to focus on, as well as a short paper and several power point slides. At the end, the groups will produce a collective short paper that will be included as a final chapter of the report.

Although there has been some discussion between groups as to how to adopt a unified method of measuring food availability, distinct approaches to the problem have been emerging in the groups that have been meeting.

Group 7 will be structuring its research questions around the underlying social, economic and institutional factors that affect community food security in Newark. Each member will focus on collecting data relevant to one of the following four aspects of food availability:

- The presence of Federal Food Assistance Programs such as food stamp programs, National School Lunch programs, or elderly nutrition programs.
- The Accessibility of supermarket and corner stores, as well as the presence of private and public transportation. The infrastructure necessary to deliver Federal Food Assistance Program benefits efficiently will also be examined.
- The types of Food available, and the percent of items missing in each important food category relative to the TFP.
- The Affordability of Food – both the prices of individual items, as well as the cost of the entire TFP market basket will be taken into consideration. The group will also look at how prices vary across stores in Newark as well as at whether or not stores accept food stamps.

After meeting with Jane Weber, the Public Health Coordinator of the Lourdes Center for Public Health, Xinyi Duan from Group 8 decided that it would be best to count grocery items in supermarkets in New Brunswick using a shortened version of the Thrifty Food Plan. She has also added one more component to the TFP: the availability of healthy food substitutes. This is of particular importance given the nutrition-related health problems prevalent among immigrants that were mentioned in lecture by the CEO of our community partner Catholic Health East. Although health food will be the focus of the research, her group will also look at:

- The types of food present in each store
- The affordability of food in the community.
- The type of advertising found in stores.

The data collected in supermarkets in New Brunswick will act as a control for the data collected in the other three cities.

It will be exciting to see what different approaches groups 5 and 6 will choose to adopt, and to observe how the different groups’ findings will give a unified view of the problem of food availability throughout New Jersey.