Low income, high risk: the overlapping stigmas of food allergy and poverty

A new study by AllerGen researchers reveals that low-income families affected by food allergies felt “unsafe” procuring allergen-free foods at food banks and discount supermarkets, may be misinformed the social assistance health insurance plan, and distanced themselves from other low-income groups including: working poor individuals with no health coverage; immigrants; food bank users; and youth.

he study, “Low income, high risk: the overlapping stigmas of food allergy and poverty,” by authors Leia Minaker (University of Waterloo), Susan Elliott (University of Waterloo) and Ann Clarke (University of Calgary), was published online in Critical Public Health on June 13, 2014.

In-depth interviews with 13 low-income adults affected by food allergies and 10 “key informants”—allergists and dietitians, food bank employees, employment support center employees, and governmental social assistance case workers—were conducted in 2012 and 2013.

The researchers also discovered that low-income families and key informants had discrepant perspectives regarding food allergy experiences, with “potentially stigmatizing perspectives on the part of key informants.”

This work was supported by AllerGen as part of the Canadian Food Allergy Strategic Team (CanFAST) research program, and has implications for strategies to improve access to education, safe food, and medication for low-income families affected by food allergies.