Team Food Freedom – Beginning Research

Well, it’s begun! Team Food Freedom has begun our larger AC4D project. My team and I have decided to research “access to healthy food among low-income individuals in Austin”. Our group is aware of the important role food, more so healthy food, plays in our every day life. We are curious how access to healthy food, from a physical and mental space, influences people’s eating habits and perception of food. The area of focus could lead to a number of directions that aren’t necessarily known at this point. That’s what is exciting about ethnographic research, it could present a space that we are completely unaware of at the moment.

This quarter started off slower than what was hoped. Although, I think overall the class is moving forward with more confidence this quarter. This is due partly because we deeper exposure into the process from the previous quarter, as well as becoming more comfortable living within ambiguity. This allowed us to get more exposure to opportunities of improvement within the process. Learn by doing, right? I know on a personal level this has been extremely beneficial because generally over-think things, which typically becomes a barrier to making. Part of this is due to being unfamiliar. To combat this I will externalize more and sit within the data longer.

To focus our research participants we are defining low-income as someone who makes less than $10/hr, which comes out to less than $20,800 annual income before taxes. The living wage in Austin is reported as earning $9.52/hour. Living wage is defined as the level of income that a person must make to support themselves in a given location. Focusing on this level of income will allow us to consider how physical (location and financial) access affects diet and food perception. Generally, higher quality food is more expensive and could be a potential barrier. With a higher income one could assume that access becomes much less of a barrier and then would primarily focus on any mental/habitual barriers. We are interested learning more about both types of access. If we were to focus on incomes at or below the poverty line, we would lose the opportunity of healthy food as being a focus. The idea here is that someone in this position would be focusing more on problems that would be more important than healthy food in their minds.

At first we were recruiting from too broad of a pool which wasn’t providing enough constraints. With the recommendation of Ruby Ku, we applied the above constraints, which ultimately started to give us more traction. So far we have reached out to community organizers, neighbors, approaching people at HEB, posting online, and asking people we come across in our day to day routines.

Gaining participants began with minimal traction, but as the quarter as progressed we have started to make significant progress. I think part of the initial slow pace was subconsciously thinking in the back of our minds that we have until next April to finish the project, without thinking of the steps in the process we haven’t even been exposed to yet. This mentality has definitely changed within the last week. We went from 5 participants scheduled and/interviewed to about 15. We would still like to get a few more scheduled.

The slow start was a reminder that in this world there is never time to waste. Whenever opportunity presents itself we need to capitalize on that time. Even if it’s only 30 minutes of transcribing, replying to a couple of emails, or working on a blog post it’s still progress. After all, the end project’s success is going to stem from incredible number of smaller 30 minute tasks. I can’t wait to see what Food Freedom comes up with!