UNE researchers publish brief outlining Mainers' food security, purchasing during COVID-19

Portland Campus in winter

Michele Polacsek, Ph.D., M.H.S., director of the UNE Center for Excellence in Public Health (CEPH), and Thomas Meuser, Ph.D., director of the Center for Excellence in Aging and Health (CEAH), have published a brief outlining people’s food security and purchasing behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The brief summarizes the results of an online survey conducted among Maine residents from May 13 to 31, 2020. The survey was distributed through several programs and agencies that target older adults, though it also included a broad range of ages. Respondents were asked questions concerning food security, food purchasing behavior, health conditions, and sociodemographic characteristics for the 12-month period prior to the onset of COVID-19 and the 30 days prior to taking the survey.

Six percent of respondents said they were food insecure both in the 12 months leading up to the novel coronavirus outbreak and in the 30 days prior to taking the survey. Participants said they had difficulty with grocery shopping during the pandemic: 42% of survey takers reported that having more trust in the safety of grocery shopping would have helped them meet food needs, and 21% reported that greater availability of food delivery would have helped them meet food needs.

“Although the survey was not representative of the older Maine population as a whole, findings demonstrate that older residents with disabilities may be suffering greater food insecurity and face more barriers to healthy eating than do other residents,” Polacsek said. “These populations may require tailored support in acquiring preferred foods and to successfully navigate online ordering and delivery, for example.”

The work was completed in collaboration with Debra Brucker, Ph.D., research associate professor at the University of New Hampshire, and Alyssa Mora, Sc.D., M.P.H., RD, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Michele Polacsek, Ph.D., M.H.S.
Thomas Meuser, Ph.D.

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