Payan DD, Perez-Lua F, Goldman-Mellor S, Young M-EDT. Rural household food insecurity among Latino immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nutrients. 2022.
U.S. food insecurity rates rapidly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with disproportionate impacts on Latino immigrant households. We conducted a qualitative study to investigate how household food environments of rural Latino immigrants were affected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty-one respondents (42% from low food security households) completed interviews (July 2020-April 2021) across four rural counties in California. A rural household food security conceptual framework was used to analyze the data. Early in the pandemic, food availability was impacted by school closures and the increased consumption of meals/snacks at home; food access was impacted by reduced incomes. Barriers to access included limited transportation, excess distance, and lack of convenience. Key resources for mitigating food insecurity were the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), school meals, charitable food programs, and social capital, although the adequacy and acceptability of charitable food distributions were noted issues. Respondents expressed concern about legal status, stigma, and the public charge rule when discussing barriers to government nutrition assistance programs. They reported that food pantries and P-EBT had fewer access barriers. Positive coping strategies included health-promoting food substitutions and the reduced consumption of meals outside the home. Results can inform the development of policy and systems interventions to decrease food insecurity and nutrition-related health disparities among rural Latino immigrants.