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People on food stamps can't afford heart-healthy meals

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 9 Most food stamp beneficiaries can't afford heart-healthy food options, according to a study of low-income, African-American-residents in a Boston neighborhood that was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2004. In Roxbury, Mass., a family of four would need to spend $227 a month in excess of food stamp benefits to make heart-healthy foods part of their daily diet, researchers said. A senior living alone would need at least $100 extra.

"Low-income people, in this particular community, who receive food stamp benefits have very limited access to a culturally appropriate diet filled with heart-healthy foods," said Rachael S. Fulp, M.P.H., director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease in Women at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "Food cost can be a significant barrier to developing and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors." Roxbury, Mass., is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Boston. Twenty-seven percent of its residents live below the federal poverty level, and according to self reports, they have some of the worst lifestyle habits in Boston.

The cost of heart healthy foods coupled with the steep rise of coronary risk factors in this African-American community caught the attention of Fulp and her colleagues. They hypothesized that maximum food stamp program benefits in Massachusetts would be insufficient to purchase heart-healthy, culturally appropriate meals for families and seniors living alone in Roxbury.

The researchers conducted two sets of extensive focus group testing with six African-American women who had children under age 18 and six African-American women age 65 and older living alone. Women were targeted for this study because they generally make key dietary choices and influence lifestyle decisions for their families. All participants were Roxbury residents.

A series of model seven-day menus was developed, tested and revised based on focus group discussions abou
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Contact: Darcy Spitz
darcy.spitz@heart.org
212-878-5940
American Heart Association
9-Nov-2004


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