The goal of my research project is to understand the experiences around food among diabetes patients in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood. The research was conducted at Sayre Health Center, which is located within the community and has identified type II diabetes as a major health concern. I interviewed 19 patients at Sayre, asking them open-ended questions about their dietary preferences and patterns, attitudes around food, and the factors which influence their everyday diet. I also conducted food security surveys to gather data on access to food within this population. The study aimed to understand not only what patients consume, but also the physical, social, and cultural context of their everyday experiences.
Through the interviews, I learned about the wide range of experiences that exist within a community, as well as the shared values and norms around food. I also gained a better understanding of the food environment that exists in and around Cobbs Creek, and how this shapes the experiences of patients living with diabetes. Though I had believed that food insecurity partially affects the experience of diabetes self-management within the community, I found that several other internal and contextual factors are involved in shaping patients’ dietary patterns. Through my experience, I also learned how to highlight participant narratives as a researcher in the field.
The project allowed me to apply the qualitative research methods I have learned through my coursework and pursue my interests in community health and food justice. As I spoke directly with patients and listened to their experiences, I was able to gain perspectives around health beyond the ones I have encountered in my studies. The hands-on nature of the research therefore allowed me to bridge theories and concepts with real experiences from the community.