How to Address Food Insecurity and Promote Healthy Living

Many of the same people who struggle with obesity also face food insecurity, or the lack of consistent access to enough food for a healthy, active life. With these issues occurring simultaneously, nutrition and obesity prevention leaders face one of the most complex communications challenges they’ve had to tackle. In our past webinar “Communications to Address Food Insecurity and Healthy Living,” we discussed common barriers to seeking food assistance and eating healthy, messages that resonate with this audience, and how to connect priority populations with food benefits.

Screen Shot 2021-08-25 at 11.55.59 AMCommon obstacles to seeking help and living healthy

In research, we’ve found that many of the people facing challenges around food insecurity and healthy living experience similar obstacles like financial pressures; confusing messages; long work hours; and time constraints, exacerbated by single parenting. Though they had a general understanding that something could be done to help or that they should eat healthier, they didn’t understand how this would fit into their day-to-day realities. Health communications need to be very specific about how the behavior fits into the audience’s lives and help them overcome their obstacles to get there.
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Making change easier with SAVI Messages

To create messages that specifically address the obstacles in our audience’s lives, we use our SAVI Messaging strategy. It is built on the premise that all of our messages should be: Specific, Acceptable, Viable, and Impactful.

  • The main component of SAVI is understanding the barriers the audience faces and counteracting those with very specific messages that explain how the healthy behavior is possible within the audience’s current situation. Ask yourself: Does the message reduce the audience’s burden of figuring out how to be healthy or how to seek support?
  • Next, we have to ensure the message is acceptable to our audience in terms of cost, taste, culture, and family receptivity. Given today’s challenges, food waste is a huge concern, so audiences want to be sure family members will be receptive to the new healthy behavior.
  • The message must also provide a viable solution that’s feasible for the audience to execute in terms of time, skill, family, culture and taste. For example, many people believe signing up for food benefits is a complex, time-consuming process. We can help them understand the reality of how long it takes to show it’s feasible for a person who is tight on time, has multiple jobs, or juggles family care.
  • If our audience is going to put in the effort to change their behavior, we need to provide a solution that will have an impact on a person’s health or current financial situation. Ask yourself: are we including behaviors or solutions for our audience that if adopted, will actually cause meaningful impact?

Example: SAVI Messaging to address food insecurity

Our first example is from our work with the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). As of June 2019, SSI (supplemental security income) recipients became eligible for CalFresh food benefits, providing additional benefits to those who need it. Through audience research, we honed in on the barriers audiences might face when signing up for benefits.

The following ad was designed for older adults to show them how to apply for CalFresh food benefits. In research, older adults believed the enrollment process would be too cumbersome, difficult, and confusing. This ad overcomes those concerns by offering specific, simple ways to apply and reiterates what information will be asked in the process.

Example: SAVI Messaging to promote healthy living

Our next example comes from our campaign for Eat Better Together called “Healthy Our Way” created with the Colorado Department of Human Services. During audience research, we heard four main themes around healthy living. They valued family acceptance of new foods, meal prepping together as a family, saving time and money, and avoiding food waste.

As a result of these themes, we created “Healthy Our Way,” which provides short, easy-to-use tips and recipes that families can make together. Messages are inclusive of various cultures and traditional foods. The following ad shows audiences how to swap fast food burritos for healthier burrito bowls with cauliflower rice, which is more nutritious and similar to the fast-food option in taste and prep time.

If you’d like to learn more about our approach to developing nutrition campaigns, please contact Dina Weldin, Group Management Director.


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