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The relationship between food insecurity and practical food issues amongst a sample of refugees in Edinburgh

By L Gillam and Michael Clapham


Background:  Food insecurity, or a lack of secure access to safe food, can be a precursor to nutritional problems (Campbell, 1991). It has been linked with a wide range of physical, mental and social health problems (Vozoris & Tarasuk, 2003), has been associated paradoxically with obesity in adults (Adams et al., 2003), and has been shown to affect children's academic performance, weight gain and social skills (Jyoti et al., 2005). Refugees are thought to be at higher risk than most of suffering from food insecurity, as a result of a combination of both social and economic factors, and this was reflected in a pilot study in London reporting 100% food insecurity with 60% child hunger (Sellen et al., 2002). The current project aimed to ascertain the prevalence of food insecurity amongst a sample group of refugees in Edinburgh, and to explore associations between levels of food insecurity and practical food issues.\ud \ud Methods:  A self-completing questionnaire, available in nine community languages, was administered to a convenience sample of adult refugees attending an adult education project and the central mosque. It contained questions relating to sociodemographics, statements adapted from the Radimer/Cornell food security and hunger scale (Radimer et al., 1990), and practical food information/access questions relating to language difficulties, social support, difficulties of finding shops with appropriate foods, lack of knowledge of local cooking/recipes, and uncertainty over food choices (Sellen et al., 2002). The Radimer/Cornell scale categorises participants progressively as food secure, household insecure, individual insecure or insecure with child hunger, according to the answers that are given. Subjects were then grouped as food secure and insecure for the purposes of undertaking Fisher's exact test analysis to determine associations with the practical issues, and Spearman correlation analysis to investigate correlations.\ud \ud Results:  Participants (n = 9) comprised a mixture of males (44.4%) and females (56%), most of whom (89%) had been living in the UK for more than 2 years. Results indicated that 56% were food insecure, with 11% reporting food insecurity with child hunger. There were no statistically significant associations or correlations between food insecurity and the practical food issues listed.\ud \ud Discussion:  To the best available knowledge, this study represents the first application of the Radimer/Cornell food security/hunger scale to refugees settled in Scotland. Inferences from this study are limited because it reflects a small convenience sample from only two groupings, is limited to those literate in one of the nine community languages (78% had college/higher education), and most participants had been in the UK more than 2 years, and so may be expected to have obtained a certain amount of acculturation in this time.\ud \ud Conclusions:  Lack of secure access to food is not an acceptable predicament for anyone seeking sanctuary in this country. This project, although small scale and with limitations, would suggest that this is a subject area requiring further study

Publisher: The British Dietetic Association Ltd
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:eresearch.qmu.ac.uk:1705
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