New Orleans, LA - A pair of studies conducted at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health found reasons and possible solutions to improve low-income residents' access to fresh, local produce at farmers markets. The first study, published in the Journal of Public Health Research, available at http://www.
"Our study for the first time shows that one barrier to farmers market utilization is simply not being aware that they exist.," noted Henry Nuss, PhD, Assistant Professor at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health.
The researchers developed a questionnaire to assess demographic information, awareness of farmers markets in New Orleans, food-purchasing behaviors, internet use, diet and preferences among a variety of marketing media. They found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of low-income participants had never been to a farmers market. The research team reported that 73% of participants did not know that farmers markets accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and 77% were not aware that patrons could receive additional discounts with SNAP purchases. The researchers then tested the feasibility of their novel, internet-based social marketing strategy, Healthy Roots for You.
The second study, published in Ethnicity & Disease, available at https:/
"Most participants liked the sample Healthy Roots marketing media we shared with them and agreed that notifications via social media, email and a dedicated website would increase their awareness of farmers markets," Dr. Nuss said.
Researchers say the importance of this research is that farmers markets are being underutilized by the at-risk community members they intend to help. This research is working to identify and remove barriers to improve health in these underserved populations.
"Farmers' markets were originally established to provide fresh, healthy and affordable food to underserved communities," Nuss noted. "Unfortunately, this is not a case of 'if you build it they will come.' What we're seeing now is that we need to put the word out that farmers' markets are there for low-income residents, and that the affordability and quality of fresh, LOCAL produce are better and healthier that what they'd find at retail chains."
In addition to Nuss, the research teams also included Meg Skizim, MPH; Melinda Sothern, PhD; Ondrej Blaha; Tung-Sung Tseng, DrPH; Lauren Griffiths, MPH; Jonathan Joseph; Hasheemah Afaneh; and Lucio Miele, MD, PhD.
These research projects were supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, Hollygrove Market and Farm, Hollygrove community and LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health.
LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans educates Louisiana's health care professionals. The state's most comprehensive health professional university, LSU Health New Orleans includes a School of Medicine, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, and Schools of Allied Health Professions, Nursing, and Graduate Studies. LSU Health New Orleans faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout the region. In the vanguard of biosciences research in a number of areas in a worldwide arena, the LSU Health New Orleans research enterprise generates jobs and enormous economic impact. LSU Health New Orleans faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, advance treatment, or cure disease. To learn more, visit http://www.