How Do African-American Caregivers Navigate a Food Desert to Feed Their Children? A Photovoice Narrative

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics








African American; Diet disparities; Food desert; Food environment; Photovoice


© 2018 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Objectives: To determine how African-American caregivers living in a food desert navigate neighborhood resources to procure foods for their children and to identify actions to improve those resources. Design: Using the Photovoice approach, we conducted two sets of individual in-depth interviews with 16 African-American primary caregivers of children (total of 32 interviews) and one culminating workshop (n=10 participants). Data were systematically analyzed according to the Social Ecological Framework to evaluate the role of different environments in shaping individual decisions. Setting: Urban, low-income and geographically marginalized neighborhoods. Results: Despite the challenges of living in a food desert, caregivers perceived that they were providing the foods that they wanted for their children. These perceptions were based on their own health concerns, food customs, time and convenience, and responses to their children's food preferences. Caregivers were resourceful in how they procured these foods, searching for quality and better-priced foods. They relied on their friends, family, and local/national programs to mitigate the challenges of the food desert. Caregivers were interested in taking action to improve the underlying determinants of food access and choice (eg, affordable housing, job training, nutrition knowledge, food shopping experience). Conclusion: These African-American caregivers procured foods they thought were best for their children by relying on their strong social relationships and national and local food programs to navigate the food desert. Public health nutrition interventions that aim to reduce diet-related disparities should look beyond the presence or absence of supermarkets in food deserts to address multisectoral determinants of access while shaping food choices.