More than 2.7 million grandparents raised grandchildren the United States in 2018, and while a number receive assistance from programs such as Georgia State University’s Project Healthy Grandparents (PHG), little attention is given to improving nutrition and examining food availability for these families. Georgia ranks 5th in the nation in the number of grandparents raising grandchildren. At least a third of the grandparents are over the age of 60 and have health conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes, which require better nutrition.
Dr. Kellie Mayfield, assistant professor of nutrition, is using a Lewis College internal research grant to study nutritional issues of custodial African-American grandmothers and their families living in metro Atlanta, all PHG alumni. She says that very little attention has been paid to nutrition; one previous study conducted with former Department of Nutrition faculty examined diet and physical activity. Dr. Mayfield’s pilot study will look deeper into nutritional issues and food access.
“The focus is on food access and how their identities influence how they nutritionally care for themselves and their grandchildren. We assume that the grandmothers are the primary food decision makers in the household. However, there may be factors that facilitate or impede acquiring healthy food,” said Dr. Mayfield.
A community-based researcher, Dr. Mayfield previously conducted a mixed methods community based research project with a community collaborator in Flint, Michigan. They accessed food availability, price and quality in a variety of food stores as well as food access issues of African-American women with children and older women without children. For this study, she will conduct focus groups to explore the grandmothers’ concerns about nutrition. Future studies will be based on data analysis from the pilot study.
“It’s possible that nutrition and feeding may not be at the top of the custodial grandmother’s priority list,” Dr. Mayfield admits. But for the long term there lots of opportunities to build on the issue including starting community gardens and group cooking activities to involve the grandchildren.
Dr. Mayfield is currently recruiting alumni from Project Healthy Grandparents to participate in the study.
Kellie Mayfield, Ph.D.
Department of Nutrition
Dr. Mayfield conducts theoretically centered community based mixed methods interdisciplinary research that engages marginalized communities as research partners, supporting community-level movement towards sustainable changes in the food environment. She also explores additional variables influencing food intake and indicators of health, such as sleep and stress.