Food security and social acceptability of alternative food networks in low-waged New Zealand employees
Background: Food insecurity is a major public health issue in New Zealand with nutrition, health and well-being implications. The primary driver of household food insecurity in New Zealand is inadequate income to cover basic living costs. While food insecurity among beneficiary households has been explored, little is known about the food insecurity experiences of low-waged New Zealand employees. Income is needed to access food from commercial sources (e.g. supermarkets) more so than alternative food networks (e.g. food banks). However, it is unclear how comfortable New Zealanders are with accessing food from alternative food networks, and whether this differs by food security status. Socially acceptable alternative food networks may have a role to play in alleviating food insecurity. Objective: To explore household food security and social acceptability of alternative food networks amongst a convenience sample of low-waged New Zealand employees. Design: Three organisations emailed members/employees an invitation to take part in a cross-sectional online survey. Eligible participants were low-waged (≤$20 per hour) New Zealand employees or low-waged (<$23 per hour) employees with an annual household income ≤$40,000. Food security was measured using: the eight-item New Zealand tool and the nine-item Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS). The social acceptability of 16 food sources/alternative food networks and a range of socio-demographic characteristics were also assessed. Responses were analysed using descriptive statistics. Results: Of the 135 eligible participants, the majority were female, aged 18-30 years, New Zealand European and in the two lowest NZSEI-13 socio-economic groups. On average, participants earnt $19.30 per hour and worked 29.5 hours per week. Most participants experienced household food insecurity over the past 12 months (NZ tool: 43.0% low, 36.3% moderate and 14.8% full/almost full food security) and over the past four weeks (HFIAS: 51.9% severely, 15.6% moderately and 11.1% mildly food insecure (access); 17.0% food secure). Socially acceptable food sources, in descending order, were: supermarket/grocery store, known garden, farmers’ market, seconds, discount priced store and school breakfast/lunch programmes. Compared to food secure participants, a greater proportion of food insecure participants were comfortable buying seconds and food from a community group, and less comfortable getting produce from an unknown garden. The least socially acceptable food sources were foraging and community meals. Conclusion: Many low-waged employees in this convenience sample lived in households that experienced food insecurity and food access challenges, however a larger, more representative sample is needed to estimate prevalence. Food insecure households need adequate income to cover living costs; so raising the minimum wage could be considered. Food sources used to alleviate food insecurity need to be socially acceptable, particularly to food insecure households, and the food should be safe and nutritious.
Advisor: Mainvil, Louise
Degree Name: Master of Dietetics
Degree Discipline: Human Nutrition
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Food security; Food access; Alternative food networks; New Zealand; Social acceptability; Food insecurity; Low-waged
Research Type: Thesis