Community food security refers to a situation where all residents in a community can access affordable and nutritionally adequate foods. When a community has difficultly accessing healthy and affordable food, it is an issue of community food insecurity; low-income and urban communities experience this problem greatly. Key indicators of food insecurity include households with incomes below the poverty line, minority households, female-headed households, households with children, a lack of a supermarket and lack of adequate transportation. This study examined the issue of community food security in the Smith Hill neighborhood of Providence, RI. It was hypothesized that the Smith Hill community, as a low-income, urban neighborhood, would experience a moderate level of community food insecurity, as it would experience the various factors and barriers noted in the literature that contribute to problems accessing healthy and affordable food. The various factors of food availability and affordability were hypothesized to be the most problematic for the community and its residents.
To understand this problem, a small-scale community food security assessment of the Smith Hill neighborhood in Providence, RI was completed and evaluated. This assessment included both descriptive data about the community, as well as interviews with four key stakeholders in the community who work in areas related to food access. Results of the study supported the hypothesis in some areas, but not in others. Assessment and interview results indicated that the Smith Hill community experiences some food access and food insecurity problems, as a result of many residents living below the poverty level and experiencing other factors akin to food insecurity, but the existence of food pantries, federal food assistance programs and the new supermarket do a great deal to alleviate these problems. Limitations of the study and implications for social work practice, policy and research are also discussed.