BACKGROUND: Homeless people in the UK and elsewhere have typically been found to consume a nutritionally inadequate diet. There is need for contemporary research to update our understanding within this field. The present study aimed to provide an insight into the nutrient intake and food choice of a sample of homeless adults.
In this mixed-methods study, 24 homeless individuals accessing two charitable meal services in Sheffield, UK, participated in up to four 24-h dietary recalls between April and August 2012. Twelve individuals took part in a semi-structured interview focusing on food choice.
Energy intake was significantly lower than the estimated average requirement. Median intakes of vitamin A, zinc, magnesium, potassium and selenium were significantly lower than reference nutrient intakes. Contributions of saturated fat and nonmilk extrinsic sugars to total energy intake were significantly higher, whereas dietary fibre was significantly lower, than population average intakes. Charitable meals made an important contribution to intakes of energy and most micronutrients. Thematic analysis of interview transcripts revealed three major themes: food aspirations; constraints over food choice; and food representing survival.
The present study reveals risk of dietary inadequacies amongst homeless people alongside a lack of control over food choices. Charitable meal services are suggested as a vehicle for improving the dietary intake and nutritional health of homeless people (Authors).