Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Food Systems

First Advisor

Linda Berlin

Abstract

The work described herein is situated in a larger study investigating regional food systems as a method for improving food access for vulnerable communities. This research is part of the United States Department of Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative project titled Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast for Underserved Populations (EFSNE). This work is ongoing and currently in year five of five. One of the primary objectives in year five is to facilitate the development of Learning Communities in each of the eight communities participating in the study. To do so, the research team planned to develop tools and strategies for facilitation. The team identified a need to match strategies to the specific situation of each community. Thus, a tool was identified that might be useful in assessing the needs and readiness of the communities with respect to their access to healthy food sources. This research simultaneously evaluated the usefulness of the tool while assessing community readiness in six of the eight project communities.

The tool used in this study, was a community level behavioral change model, the Community Readiness Model (CRM). The model was originally developed by the Tri-Ethnic Center in Colorado. We followed the CRM protocol for identifying participants. Twenty-four individuals from six locations involved in the EFSNE study participated in the interview process. The interviews were conducted using the semi-structured interview guide provided in the CRM protocol. We amended the guide by tailoring questions to address food access and ensuring questions were asked at the five levels of influence found in the Socio-Ecological Model. The final guide contained 40 questions; 18 were required by the protocol to score each community. Interviews were conducted by telephone by one researcher, transcribed, and then scored by two researchers according to the CRM protocol.

The mean overall readiness score for the six communities assessed was 4.9 (SD 1.0). This score is firmly rooted in the pre-planning stage of readiness. Scores ranged from 3.7 to 6.2 on the 9-point scale. The CRM scoring protocol coupled with the overall readiness scores indicated that the three urban communities scored higher (mean 5.7, SD 0.6) than the three rural communities (mean 4.1, SD 0.7). While we found a utility to having scores on a continuum to quickly assess the communities of study, we found the qualitative data obtained from the interview process imperative to understanding the scores and the communities.

We concluded that with a few amendments, the Community Readiness Model is a useful methodology to understand food access at the community level. Revealing the stages of readiness for food access change in the study communities contributed to our understanding of what types of programs exist for food access, what the communities' attitudes and feelings are around food access and guided strategy development for moving readiness for change forward. This lens also revealed that there is a need for education on existing and development of new food access policies. Furthermore, this work contributes to the practice of assessing community food security while simultaneously contributing to the development of parameters for community food security theory in food systems scholarship.

Language

en

Number of Pages

108 p.