Latino immigrants often face a new kind of poverty and hardship upon settling in the U.S.; 25% of Latino households are living below the poverty line, and the same percentage is considered food insecure (Coleman-Jensen, Nord, Andrews, & Carlson, 2012; DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, & Smith, 2012). At the same time, these individuals often face a society that is very different from the ones they were born into and as a result, struggle to acculturate. CAYCI supported an OSU undergraduate thesis student, Molly Bergen, in researching the food habits and community connections among Latino immigrants in Columbus, Ohio and Salt Lake City, Utah.
This study was based on the hypothesis that when Latino immigrants are able to engage in local food systems, sense of community is enhanced and acculturation occurs with less stress. In order to better understand the factors related to where Latino immigrants obtain food and how this population engages with the local community, this study examined the following: the relationships between engagement in local food systems, sense of community, and acculturation among Latino immigrants; factors that influence Latino immigrants’ engagement in local food systems; and finally, the relationship between engagement in local food systems and food security level. Findings demonstrated that local food system participation is significantly and positively related to heightened community engagement and a strong sense of community. These results suggest that social workers and communities looking to help immigrants adapt to U.S. society can do so by promoting community engagement through participation in local food systems.