DETROIT (WWJ) – Low-income American families are cooking dinner at home most nights but are struggling to make healthy meals, according to a recent study from Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters with support from the ConAgra Foods Foundation.
The research suggests that although 85 percent of the families surveyed say that healthy eating is important, only about half are managing to eat healthy meals at home most days.
With one in three Americans living in or near poverty, and record participation in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps), many low-income Americans feel challenged to eat healthy meals at home.
The study found that cost is the most commonly cited barrier to making healthy meals; a majority of families are satisfied with the quality and variety of available healthy grocery items. Low-income families that regularly plan meals and budget for food are able to make healthy meals more often.
Key findings from the research include the following:
• Low-income families are cooking at home. Eight in 10 families eat dinner at home at least five times a week. As income decreases, the frequency of eating dinner made at home increases.
• Eating healthy meals is considered important and realistic by low-income families. Eighty-five percent of the families surveyed said that eating healthy meals is important to them, and two-thirds of families are interested in learning about cooking healthy meals.
• Low-income families struggle to put healthy meals on the table. Forty percent of families who say eating healthy meals is important are not providing healthy meals most days. While families are largely satisfied with the variety (61 percent) and quality (64 percent) of healthy grocery items available to them, only 30 percent are satisfied with price. Time is a barrier for some families, especially those where the food decision maker works full-time.
• Practical information and simple strategies can help. Low-income families that regularly plan meals, write grocery lists and budget for food make healthy meals from scratch more often (more than five times a week) than those who don’t. A better understanding of the health benefits of frozen and canned fruits and vegetables could also put more healthy options in reach for low-income families: While 81 percent of low-income parents rated fresh produce as extremely healthy, that rating drops down to 32 percent when it comes to frozen fruits and vegetables and 12 percent with canned fruits and vegetables.
• Families are eager for tips and tools. Fifty percent of families are extremely interested in learning more about cooking healthy meals, and two out of three families are interested and four in 10 are extremely interested in learning how to better budget for meals.
The complete study is available at CookingMatters.org/ItsDinnertime.