Research Funded by William T. Grant Foundation Aims to Show Why Some Veterans Go Hungry

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Research Funded by William T. Grant Foundation Aims to Show Why Some Veterans Go Hungry

A new study seeks to understand why some veterans experience food insecurity, having little access to healthy food, skipping meals or using money budgeted for groceries to pay other bills.

With previous research showing that roughly a quarter of post-9/11 veterans have experienced hunger or food insecurity at some point after their service, Nipa Kamdar, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Houston's Department of Health and Human Performance, sought to determine what barriers keep veterans from obtaining and eating quality food.

Using a unique approach to qualitative research called photo elicitation, she let the veterans explain their challenges through photographs of objects or situations they felt hindered or helped their access to food.

"This is a problem in this community, but it's not being fully recognized," Kamdar said during an interview with "I really wanted to understand what was happening in the veteran household and really get the story, rather than just the numbers."

Kamdar gave cameras to 18 low-income veterans who had at least one child between the ages of 5 and 11. Later, she met with them to share pictures and allow them to explain their reasons for choosing their subject matter.

Kamdar said the photographs provide insight into families facing hardships that data or simple interviews don't convey.

"Veterans may have physical or mental health disabilities and limited social support that further restrict their access to food," she said. "There is limited knowledge about the barriers to accessing food within this community."

Study participant Alisha Strife, a former Army soldier injured in a Humvee accident in Iraq in 2005, said her barriers included being unable to work while recovering from her injuries and, later, monthly health care premiums that totaled $1,700 -- more than half her Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation.

As part of the research, she took pictures of her gas gauge on empty and her VA prescription bottles.

"A lot of it is ... just making sure those things were taken care of. Then, there is the amount of time it takes to attend medical appointments and take care of kids, along with the high divorce rate, or being single parents that typically veterans may be," Strife said...

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