Community Mental Health Journal

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 440–447 | Cite as

Coping with Food Insecurity Among African American in Public-Sector Mental Health Services: A Qualitative Study

  • Neely MyersEmail author
  • Anubha Sood
  • Yazeed Alolayan
  • Beth Broussard
  • Katherine Fox
  • Kelly King
  • Elizabeth LoGalbo
  • Leea Thompson
  • Michael T. Compton
Original Paper


While there are high rates of food insecurity among individuals with serious mental illnesses, and among African Americans, there is very little research on the ways African Americans in public-sector mental health services cope with food insecurity. This research paper presents qualitative data from a mixed methods study on the prevalence and management of food insecurity among African Americans using public sector mental health services. We interviewed 21 people about their everyday experiences of food insecurity and strategies they used to cope. While participants reported experiencing high levels of food insecurity, they also described the use of communal strategies to help them cope, including sharing food and cooking meals jointly, which seemed to reduce the negative effects of living with high levels of food insecurity as well as a serious mental illness. Policy innovations like communal gardens and kitchens provided through public mental health services may be particularly helpful.


African American Community mental health Food security Public policy Serious mental illness 



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologySouthern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA
  2. 2.University of Texas Southwestern Medical CenterDallasUSA
  3. 3.Department of NeurologyCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryLenox Hill HospitalNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesThe George Washington University School of Medicine and Health SciencesWashingtonUSA
  6. 6.WashingtonUSA
  7. 7.Department of PsychiatryColumbia University College of Physicians and SurgeonsNew YorkUSA

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