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Food Acquisition Strategies of Homeless Youth in the Greater Seattle Area: A Cross- Sectional Study

      Abstract

      Objectives

      The aims of this study were to describe how homeless youths access food in the Seattle area, and to describe the nutritional adequacy and quality of food obtained.

      Methods

      This cross-sectional study was conducted between February 2018 and May 2019. Data collection took place at seven organizations in the greater Seattle area at which homeless youths typically access food. Trained research assistants verbally administered an ∼50-item survey to homeless youths aged 14 to 24 years on their general demographic characteristics, current housing situation, ability to access food, and quantity and quality of foods acquired. Each participant was given $10 at the completion of the survey.

      Results

      Participants were 122 homeless youths with an average age of 21.6±1.94 years. During the previous week, 79.3% obtained meals from drop-in centers and 69.8% from a shelter. Most (75.2%) had not utilized a food bank during the previous month. The majority (73.6%) reported having enough food to eat, but not always the kind they wanted, and 75.4% rated the overall nutritional quality of their diet as average or below. Not having enough food or money for food contributed to skipping meals (50.4%), eating less than desired (47.1%), being hungry (45.5%), and losing weight (20.5%).

      Conclusions

      Information from this study can be used to identify barriers that homeless youths experience in acquiring adequate nutrition; to make suggestions for future research and program development; and to help social service organizations improve the network of nutrition services and the quality of food available to this vulnerable population through policy, community partnership, and public health action.

      Keywords

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      Biography

      J. Kloubec is a professor, Nutrition and Exercise Science Department, Bastyr University, Kenmore, WA.

      Biography

      C. Harris is a senior lecturer, Nutritional Sciences Program, University of Washington, Seattle.