New study study suggests an integral reason parents on a low-income buy processed foods because of their families would be to compensate for non-food related activities which support social well-being, but they are struggling to afford.
The analysis from the guts for Food Policy at City, University of London sheds light on the meals buying habits of low-income parents across England. It viewed how these families’ food practices could be influenced by their ‘food environment‘, i.e. where people can purchase and consume food outside the home, and also advertising and promotions they run into, but additionally the wider socioeconomic factors within their lives which may be affecting their decision making.
The findings support the well-established view a food environment where processed foods are ubiquitous, cheap and heavily marketed, drives parents to feed their own families in it. However, they further claim that when parents cannot afford social activities making use of their children, like visiting a ‘soft play’ center or holidays a good short distance away, they’re additionally driven to pay with family ‘treats’ taking the proper execution of unhealthy food routines.
Types of such routines identified in the analysis include family visits to fast-food outlets just like the local ‘chippy’ (fish and chips shop), kebab shop, or (famously branded) burger restaurant, as well as food related events in the home such as for example family snacks amount of time in front of a movie or game.
The analysis involved 60 parents on low incomes as participants, recruited equally from deprived neighborhoods across three parts of England: Great Yarmouth, Stoke-on-Trent and the London Borough of Lewisham. Participants were aged over 18, a parent of a kid in school of nursey and the principal shopper in the household. Reflecting the highly gendered nature of food work, 56 participants were women.
All participants took part in semi-structured interviews associated with practices of buying, preparing and eating foods in the household, and the roles of different family, including children, in enacting those practices. Fifty-eight of the participants took part in an image elicitation exercise over weekly where they took photos of items that managed to get harder or easier to allow them to choose the food they wanted because of their families. Twenty-two of the participants also took part in a ‘shop-along’ interview where they guided the interviewing researcher round the shops of these choice, and what they bought.
The info from these sources were coded in a ‘thematic analysis’ to recognize key themes which informed the interpretation of the findings, summarized overall as:
- low-income families use many tools to navigate food environments and feed families within budget.
- food environments push families to processed foods but support other areas of well-being.
- food practices shape how families build relationships food environments.
- Food environment interventions must address the broader areas of people’s lives
In line with the findings, the analysis authors’ policy recommendations include removing unhealthy food promotions and food service outlets from the meals environment, whilst crucially replacing them with healthier promotions and outlets to wthhold the opportunities for social well-being these give families.
Further recommendations include increasing the amount of affordable, family activities obtainable in deprived, local communities; making existing activities less expensive, such as for example through the option of discounts; and addressing the broader social have to lift families out of financial insecurity, such as for example through more extensive benefit schemes, living wage policies, and action on insecure work provision.
Professor Corinna Hawkes may be the Principal Investigator of the analysis, and Director of the guts for Food Policy at City, University of London. She said:
Given the beautiful food obtainable in this country, it is a travesty just how many people’s health is damaged by low quality diets. This study demonstrates the pathway forward involves focusing on how people experience food within their everyday realities. Policy to handle inequalities is only going to work if it recognizes that food is a lot more than just nutrition and must meet a wider selection of people’s needs, such as for example social and economic well-being.
The analysis is published online in the journal, Health & Place.
More info: Anna Isaacs et al, From balanced diet environments to healthy wellbeing environments: Policy insights from the focused ethnography with low-income parents’ in England, Health & Place (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2022.102862
Citation: Parents adopt unhealthy food routines for family well-being instead of unaffordable activities, study finds (2022, August 23) retrieved 23 August 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-08-parents-unhealthy-food-routines-family.html
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