Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Mary Jane Brotherson


The purpose of this study was to understand the process low-income families with young children experience as they strive to meet their food and nutrition needs. This study sought to answer the research question, "What helps, and what makes it difficult for low-income families to meet their food and nutrition needs?";Growing inequities in income and wealth over the last twenty years brings attention to socioeconomic position as a key factor in the growing disparities in health today and in future years. Low-income people, and especially those who are ethnic or racial minorities, are at greater risk of food insecurity, hunger, malnutrition, chronic diseases, and mortality than are people who do not have low incomes, or who are not racial/ethnic minorities. Inadequate nutrition during pregnancy, as well as during childhood, can result in negative effects on children's growth and development (physically, socially, cognitively, and emotionally), and potential productivity as adults;Focus groups, in-depth interviews and case study interviews were conducted in seven Iowa counties to gather data from 49 low-income women who had young children. Audiotapes were transcribed verbatim. Members of the research team read and re-read the raw transcripts to become familiar with the data and identify emerging themes. Through the process of open-coding five overarching categories and several subcategories were identified. Social support, a prevailing theme, was identified as the central phenomenon. Government policies, societal expectations, sense of control/personal empowerment, and past experiences were also identified as overarching categories. Through the process of axial coding, relationships between these categories and social support were identified. Through the process of selective coding the life experiences of low-income families were depicted as they worked to meet their food and nutrition needs. A visual model was developed that illustrates the grounded theory. Findings from this study have implications for the design and delivery of nutrition education and other programs serving low-income families, as well as for informing policy decisions directly affecting families.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Kimberly Ann Byrne Greder



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

279 pages