Poverty and Food Insecurity

People living in poverty learn about budget, handling food safety and physical activity


According to the 2008-2012 American Community Survey, poverty rates in New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties were 10.7, 12.4 and 12.9 percent respectively. Research indicated that poverty is associated with low nutrition and increased risk of many diseases. Poverty and food insecurity were found to be associated with lower food expenditures, low fruit and vegetables consumption and lower quality diets. The highest rate of obesity occurred among population groups with the highest poverty rates and least education.


Classes were conducted that target adults with incomes below 185% of poverty and who have responsibility for food planning. FoodSkills, a SNAP-Ed program, focuses on developing skills to make healthy choices based on budget, handling food safely, and participating in physical activity. Individuals and families expand their horizons — linking diet, physical activity, and health. Time was often a barrier, so courses were scheduled to meet participants’ availability. Topics include meal planning, food resource management, selection and purchasing, preparation, safety, and physical activity.


In 2017, a total of 345 adults participated in FoodSkills. Fifty-two percent of participants improved one or more food resource management skills, including more often planning meals in advance (24%), more often comparing prices when shopping (29%), running out of food less often (20%), and using a grocery list (21%). Additionally, 61% of participants improved one or more nutrition practices. Specifically:

  • 27% more often thought about healthy food choices when deciding what to eat
  • 21% more often prepared foods without added salt
  • 32% more often used the Nutrition Facts on food labels to make food choices
  • 21% reported eating breakfast more often

Safe food handling practices improved among FoodSkills graduates with 39% reporting improvement in one or more food safety practices. As a result of the program, 19% said he/she more often followed the recommended practice of not allowing meat and dairy foods to sit at room temperature for more than two hours, while 34% indicated they more often followed the recommended practice of not thawing food at room temperature.

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