Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AA and NHPIs) are among the fastest growing racial and ethnic groups in the US. While the model minority myth paints a rosy picture of economic success among AA and NHPIs, a closer look reveals that AA and NHPI ethnic subgroups struggle with poverty and food insecurity at vastly different rates.

A note on language: Throughout this post, we use “AA and NHPI” to refer to people of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander descent, making a distinction between AAs and NHPIs to acknowledge how histories of immigration and colonization inform subgroups’ economic well-being and to disrupt the conflation of their experiences. For example, the experiences of NHPIs indigenous to their homelands differs from the experiences of immigrants who came to the US as refugees or as a result of highly selective immigration policies.

For AA and NHPI families experiencing hunger, charitable food programs can help meet needs that may be underserved by existing public nutrition supports (PDF). But still, these families may experience three unique barriers in accessing charitable food resources:

  1. Some food sites are far from where AA and NHPI families live
  2. AA and NHPI families receive minimal information about charitable food in languages they can understand
  3. AA and NHPI families often can’t access culturally appropriate foods from charitable food sites

Insights from Project DASH demonstrate that home delivery can help connect AA and NHPI families with charitable food, especially older adults and adults with mobility constraints. However, barriers remain for this population in terms of ensuring programs are accessible language-wise and offer culturally appropriate foods. To address these challenges, federal and state policymakers and practitioners can consider the following actions:

  • Supporting broader data collection on AA and NHPI families’ food security, SNAP access barriers, and access to food to understand these populations’ unique needs and develop programs to address them.
  • Increasing flexibilities in the Emergency Food Assistance Program—which funds nearly 20 percent (PDF) of food distributed by charitable feeding organizations—to enable funds to be used to purchase culturally appropriate foods for AA and NHPI families.
  • Providing guidance for the SNAP application process in multiple languages so AA and NHPI families with limited English proficiency can easily access information about how to access these core food resources.
  • Allowing SNAP benefits to be used for grocery delivery fees so SNAP enrollees who face substantial transportation and health barriers can use their benefits effectively.

Read the full article about food access to Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders by Kassandra Martinchek, Paige Sonoda, and Noah Johnson at Urban Institute.