This is part two of a two-part blog from Dorothy Hernandez on the Share Our Strength study: “It’s Dinnertime: A Report on Low-Income Families’ Efforts to Plan, Shop for and Cook Healthy Meals.”
Another important aspect of the national study, “It’s Dinnertime: A Report on Low-Income Families’ Efforts to Plan, Shop for and Cook Healthy Meals,” was grocery shopping.
Sixty percent of the families reported satisfaction with their grocery stores when it comes to providing quality, variety and healthy groceries. However, when adding “price” to the mix, satisfaction was only 30 percent, and one in five families are extremely dissatisfied with price.
As part of our Cooking Matters classes, we take our participants on a grocery store trip during the fifth week of our classes, and I’m always amazed to see how expensive the foods are in city stores. A box of barley that I can get at Meijer is half the price than the same box at a store in the city. Produce can also be questionable.
Families reported most commonly shopping at discount retailers and traditional grocery stores. At least 87 percent of respondents had shopped at a discount retailer (such as Super Walmart or Target) or a traditional grocery store at least once in the past month and at least one-third visited these retailers four or more times in the month.
This made me think about the grocery store options in Detroit, where there is no Walmart or Target or any major grocery chain—at least not at the moment. There are plans for a Whole Foods in Midtown and rumors of Meijer coming to Detroit.
About half the respondents reported shopping at convenience stores, drug stores or dollar stores for groceries in the past month, according to the report. This is more representative of the options for Detroiters.
Researchers of another report, “Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Detroit,” drove up and down every major Detroit street and visited more than 200 different stores that sell groceries, saying “the preponderance of fringe food is stark.” Only eight percent of all the Detroit food stamp retailers were considered grocery stores or supermarkets. The rest were made up of fringe locations that specialized in alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets and/or a small selection of prepackaged and canned food products with high salt, fat and sugar content.
So what can be done? There is a lot of talk about taxing “bad foods,” such as sugar, similar to an alcohol or tobacco tax. I think that doesn’t truly address the problem in helping people to make small, healthy changes that can lead to permanent results. The need and demand for public nutrition programs has never been higher.
For example, in the “It’s Dinnertime” report, there was a telling statistic about the perceptions of frozen and canned produce. Thirty-two percent of respondents rated frozen fruits and vegetables as extremely healthy but only 12 percent rated canned fruits and vegetables as extremely healthy.
In our classes we talk a lot about the nutritional benefits of canned and frozen produce. Frozen and canned produce are processed and flash frozen at the peak of nutritional quality, making it just as and even more nutritious than fresh produce, especially when the produce is trucked in from across the country or flown in from a different continent. Such products are also a much more economical buy oftentimes, especially when produce is out of season. Our participants are surprised to find out that frozen and canned are excellent alternatives in terms of cost and nutrition.
For more information on the report, go to www.strength.org. While you’re there, check out some of our top recipes; my personal favorite is The Works Pizza with whole wheat crust—if you put pineapple, you can get all five food groups in!