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Immigrant Women’s Experiences with Health and Food Access

Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Co-Principal Investigator/Co-Project Leader: 
Lindiwe (Lindi)
Sibeko, PhD, IBCLC
Department of Project: 
Nutrition Dept.
Project Description: 


One out of every six residents in Massachusetts is an immigrant, comprising 17% of the state's population in 2018. Immigrants have a positive impact on economy in the U.S., contributing to business regeneration, entrepreneurship, and homeownership. In fact, refugees exceed other immigrants in their rates for entrepreneurship and homeownership adding to the vitality of local towns and cities. Communities facing economic and population decline, such as Utica, New York and St. Louis, Missouri, credit refugees for reviving the local economy. There is a dearth of research on the nutritional status, maternity and postnatal experiences of immigrant women, particularly with respect to how women adapt to new environments and manage their childbearing years, separated, as they are, from traditional support systems and cultural practices. Immigrant women's engagement within the larger society often involves creativity and resilience that promotes well-being, particularly as many experience food insecurity and poverty. These strategies are understudied and remain marginalized in their host countries.
The proposed study aims to examine the nutritional health, food insecurity, and maternity care experiences of immigrant women in Massachusetts and in communities outside of the state. Through community engagement, interviews, and surveys of 10-15 immigrant women, as well as secondary data analysis of data on immigrant and refugee women in Massachusetts, our study hopes to demonstrate the importance of the migration experience, place of residence, and host communities in facilitating optimal health and nutrition outcomes for immigrant women and their families. We work with community partners and Extension Nutrition Education Program (NEP) staff to examine and interpret study findings. This process will increase engagement of our extension educators and community partners in research on their communities and facilitate an accurate interpretation of research findings. Our work is also important for generating ideas for innovative nutrition programming to meet community needs; developing and implementing training for NEP staff and educators; and for formulating policies that prioritize investments in nutrition, food security, and health infrastructure for communities in transition and immigrants in the U.S.

Project or Initiative Report: 
Nutrition topics: 
Food Access