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

t household food preferences, preparation, cost and access issues. The menus were translated into shopping lists, and food prices were collected at two large local grocery stores where focus group members shopped. Average daily and monthly food costs were then calculated.

"Many sets of cost-effective menus have been developed in the past for members of low-income communities," said Fulp, "but none were developed with as much input from the community related to taste and cultural appropriateness as were ours."

Fulp emphasized that their menus incorporated a lot of regular items, such as regular margarine, regular maple syrup, and 2 percent milk, along with healthier items.

"We found out what participants would eat on a regular basis and adjusted the recipes to make the dishes healthier without sacrificing taste. We wanted to develop menus that real women would use, so we thought that it was imperative not to eliminate all of the foods that the focus group members enjoyed," she said. She described the menus as modest, yet meeting nutritional needs.

The average monthly food cost was $242 for a senior living alone and $692 for a family of four. Maximum food stamp benefits in Massachusetts are $139 for individuals and $465 for a family of four.

"At current funding levels, low-income people will have a very hard time accessing the kind of foods they need for a heart-healthy diet. It is very important that we use these findings to develop interventions to educate and engage community members, advocates, legislators, healthcare providers, health educators and other constituents. All interventions that stem from this study will be developed in line with political and funding realities," said Fulp.

Researchers plan to work with the food stamp program in Massachusetts, along with various government programs, educational institutions, and statewide businesses and organizations such as grocery stores, community-based organizations, communit

Contact: Darcy Spitz
American Heart Association

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