Rural Household Food Insecurity among Latino Immigrants during the COVID-19 Pandemic
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Data Collection
2.2. Data Analysis
3.1. Participant Characteristics
3.2. Food Availability
[Pre-pandemic] they would receive free breakfast and lunch at school. When the children were home, they would eat more of everything. It’s more food, more milk, more everything. When they attended school, we would save [money] on food and now, well you can imagine, with two children at home all day. They are eating here and we are without work.
We tried to limit ourselves to what we could eat because the most important thing is to survive. Right? Even if it was only beans every day. That is a win for the stomach, but sometimes, there were no beans, no rice in the stores.
3.3. Food Accessibility
I go to the most inexpensive [store] now. I go to the 99-cent store, I go to Walmart and buy the cheapest avocados. I do what I can… with $10, I can buy food for the entire day… I buy many inexpensive items there at the 99-cent store. There are salads and a majority of items are 99 cents. I buy cheap bread and everything I need.
If you do not plan ahead, you have to pay more. Salt, an egg, oil, all of that is expensive… and how much will you pay for gas? You have to plan ahead. Because you are far away from large stores and if you need to go to Walmart, you have to drive and it is far away. The liquor stores, the gasoline station stores, they are much more expensive.
3.4. Food Adequacy
3.5. Food Acceptability
I began to pay more attention to what the children ate. I asked them, “what do you like?” “Not this, mom.” I tried to have sufficient food that they would eat, that they would not waste… I bought the girls things like Cheetos, juice, snacks, that they would eat.
Every day, it has milk and fruit. In the morning, they give cereal and sometimes pancakes or waffles. For lunch, they have bagged lunches. Like burritos, orange chicken with rice… sometimes pizza. The reality is that sometimes children are very picky. I stopped going to pick up school lunches because it bothered me that the children would not eat them on a regular basis… I told my three girls I was no longer going to go because they would not eat it.
We have adapted and eat what is given to us. It is very different… we have had to modify some things. Sometimes they give us bread but we are not used to the type of bread they give us. I don’t know, it is a different kind of bread given out by the churches. We have had to adjust some of our habits. Well, Latino food in particular, it is tortillas, salsas, sometimes red meat or chicken. We have had to change our food for canned food, for sandwich bread and well, a majority of the items are canned.
3.6. Food Agency
3.6.1. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
We applied—well, my husband applied—to CalFresh. Thank God, it has been of great help. At least when it comes to food, the CalFresh we are receiving covers that… the other costs, like rent, we are saving little by little for that because we do not want to fall behind. My husband is unemployed right now and they haven’t sent him anything.
3.6.2. School Meals and Pandemic EBT (P-EBT)
Right now, the children eat more because they are at home. We are spending more money on everything. We did get help with these blank cards and it helped. It was like $360 for each child under the age of 18, and we did not qualify for the other help… since we do not have documents. The children were born here, but we did not qualify for the other $500.
The money sent to us for food stamps, that was a big help because my kids can eat. I have three—four teenagers and my little one can eat too. They go through food faster than I can bring it home. So, it did help a lot… we’re in the middle of that threshold. We don’t qualify [for CalFresh]. We miss it by a couple of bucks.
3.6.3. Charitable Food Assistance
They give out food boxes and they give us milk. They also gave me mozzarella cheese, meat, potatoes, yogurt. It’s great. At the other place, they gave me a bottle of oil, flour, beans, and rice. Sometimes they give out turkey, ham, or chicken. Canned tomatoes… juice, apples, oranges. The truth is, it has been really helpful towards reducing our costs… then I only have to buy things like chili, pork, or red meat.
There is a church in Calexico who gives me many items, like a box with cheese, milk, a variety of items. It all helps… they also give out canned fruit, cheese and beans, other canned items. Many things, it’s like $20 or $30 in groceries and it all helps.
Each Friday, they give out food. I think it is based on donations they receive because sometimes they give out meat and other times, fruits and vegetables. It is very good. We like to go there because they do not ask for anything in return—no identification or cards, nothing. You just go in your car, and they place the food in your car. You give your name, where you live. Also how many members are in your household. That’s it.
3.7. Living with Household Food Insecurity in Rural Areas
3.7.1. Social Capital
My cousin goes to the church, her church, and she brings me a box of vegetables every so often. Not always, but maybe like once a month, she will bring be a box of fruits and vegetables… it’s of great help. The kids are here at home, and they spend the day wanting to snack on something, so they eat fruit. It has been such a help.
If they gave me a box of food and if I did not feel that I needed all of it, then I would give the box to another person who really needed it and give them that help… if you can help someone else, why not do it? Right? If they give me potatoes, then I am going to share.
An advantage of living in the Central Valley is that we can obtain many things for free or from neighbors… we support each other. We speak and are friendly and if I have something to give them, I give it to them because it helps a lot during difficult times like these.
3.7.2. Coping with Compounding Stressors
3.7.3. Navigating Complex Systems
If we receive help from the government, they can classify us as a public charge due to our legal status. We’ve never obtained aid because we have that fear. No food stamps, none of it. We only go where documentation is not requested or where they ask for the most basic information… I know there is a way for my children to eat better, but I do not want to risk it.
I would like to get food stamps, but no. I say no because I would like my son to have the opportunity to submit an application [for legal status]. With Trump saying that everyone is a public charge, right? I have previously obtained assistance, the Medi-Cal program. Food stamps though, no. It has been many years since I have avoided it because I do want to see if my son can fix his [legal] documents because, well, we have no documents.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Age in years, mean (SD)||45 (10)|
|Married or living with a partner||24 (77)|
|Refused or unknown||2 (6)|
|Household size, mean (SD)||5 (2)|
|Country of birth|
|Other or unknown||4 (13)|
|Years in the United States, mean (SD)||24 (11)|
|High school or less||22 (71)|
|Some college or higher||7 (23)|
|Diagnosed chronic illness 1||7 (23)|
|Food security status|
|Very low||5 (16)|
|Participation in a government assistance program (ever)2|
|Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program)||22 (71)|
|CalFresh (California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program/SNAP, formerly food stamps)||15 (48)|
|Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)||5 (16)|
|Compounding Stressor||Coping Strategy||Illustrative Quotes|
|Fear of COVID-19 infection||Reduce frequency of trips to food retailers (e.g., grocery stores, restaurants)|
|Modify food retail trips to reduce risk of infection (i.e., timing, use of protective gear)|
|Economic insecurity and strained household food budgets||Substitute with lower-cost items or brands|
|Reduce meat consumption due to high costs|
|Increase meal preparation|
|Reduce out-of-home food consumption and restaurant visits|
|Distance from food retailers||Buy in bulk and freeze food|
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Payán, D.D.; Perez-Lua, F.; Goldman-Mellor, S.; Young, M.-E.D.T. Rural Household Food Insecurity among Latino Immigrants during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Nutrients 2022, 14, 2772. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14132772
Payán DD, Perez-Lua F, Goldman-Mellor S, Young M-EDT. Rural Household Food Insecurity among Latino Immigrants during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Nutrients. 2022; 14(13):2772. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14132772Chicago/Turabian Style
Payán, Denise Diaz, Fabiola Perez-Lua, Sidra Goldman-Mellor, and Maria-Elena De Trinidad Young. 2022. "Rural Household Food Insecurity among Latino Immigrants during the COVID-19 Pandemic" Nutrients 14, no. 13: 2772. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14132772