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Open Access Planning the City of Good (and New) Neighbours: Refugees' Experiences of the Food Environment in Buffalo, New York

The United States has resettled an average of 62,000 refugees per year over the past decade, one-quarter of whom originate from Burma. Although refugees from Burma sometimes migrate from places lacking food-related resources, their resettlement in the United States, where processed foods are abundant, may have unanticipated negative dietary and health consequences. Studies suggest that refugees decrease their intake of fruit and vegetables after living in the United States for a certain length of time, which constitutes an Americanization of diet. With little preparation for navigating Western-oriented food environments, resettled refugees from Burma may be especially susceptible to cultural and economic inequities that ultimately worsen food-related disparities.

We explore the experiences of refugees from Burma in navigating food environments in the United States, and explore the extent to which local governments are supporting or hindering their access to culturally preferred, nutritious foods. This paper presents a qualitative case study of Buffalo, New York, based on open-ended interviews with refugees originating from Burma, local government officials, and representatives from civil-society groups. The results suggest that resettlement cities may create food inequities for refugees from Burma, but that civic and social networks help refugees to adapt to their new food environments. Local government eff orts are lagging in planning for and with refugee communities. We conclude with suggestions for how local governments and researchers can promote food equity for resettled residents.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2017

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