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J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 May;112(5):711-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2011.12.020. Epub 2012 Apr 25.

Use of concept mapping to explore the influence of food security on food buying practices.

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Joseph J Zilber School of Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53201, USA.


Paradoxically, individuals with food insecurity have been observed to have higher rates of obesity compared with their counterparts with food security. The factors influencing food purchasing behaviors in households with food security vs food insecurity are poorly understood. Using the mixed methods approach of concept mapping, we examined the perceptions and preferences driving the food purchasing behaviors of households with food security vs food insecurity. Twenty-six men and women with food security and 41 men and women with food insecurity from four neighborhoods in Boston, MA, completed the concept mapping process during 2010. Prevalence of overweight and obesity was greater among participants with food insecurity (80.5%) compared with those with food security (61.5%). Participants identified 163 unique factors that influenced their food purchasing behavior. Using multivariate analyses, these factors were grouped into eight unique concepts or clusters that reflected their perceptions of factors hindering healthy eating. Average cluster ratings were similar between participants with food security and food insecurity, suggesting that similar food purchasing behaviors are employed and are perceived similarly in how they hinder or promote healthy eating. The use of emergency food assistance programs may play a role in minimizing the burden of food insecurity while providing access to foods with varying degrees of nutritional quality that may be associated with increased risk of overweight and obesity observed in individuals and households with food insecurity.

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