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Health Education and Promotion


Yitza Arcelay Rojas


The purpose of this basic interpretive qualitative study was to examine food insecurity among Idaho Head Start enrolled families, focusing on barriers and deterrents to accessing available nutrition assistance programs. The social-ecological model (SEM) was used as the theoretical foundation for this study. Based on this model, the research questions were designed to explore experiences of participants related to individual, interpersonal, community, organizational, policy, and educational factors that influenced food insecurity. Parents who had children enrolled in Idaho Head Start programs that met purposeful sampling criteria were recruited for the study. A total of 11 parents, all who had experiences with food insecurity, completed face-to-face interviews that were semi-structured in nature. The data were coded and analyzed and is reflective of how each of the five levels of the SEM are reflected on participants’ decisions to access available nutrition assistance programs. Participants reported feelings of stigma and shame and transportation concerns as individual barriers as well as a lack of support systems as an interpersonal barrier. Lack of awareness of resources, limited food choices and the questionable quality of foods provided at pantries were noted as community and organizational deterrents. The participants also described policy related barriers including the process of enrolling or recertifying for federal assistance, as well as using these benefits at participating grocery stores. Implications for positive social change include Idaho health educators and public health officials using the results of this study to create interventions that promote food security among Idaho Head Start families.