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Research Articles:

Community Engaged Research Abstracts:

The Power of “We”- Informal Social Networks Within the Food System in Kenya

Food insecurity is a force felt around the world, and current efforts to reduce the problem are falling short of their goals. Our food and agriculture system has the potential to utilize social networks to improve food access and food security within the community, yet this resource is largely ignored. The main objective of this project was to understand the power of “We”-- the informal social networks within the community in promoting household food security in Kenya. In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with food decision-makers at the household and community level in Mgange Dawida, Kenya. Results were analyzed using collaborative grounded theory methodology. Analysis found the informal social network to play a key role in decreasing seasonal variability and dependence upon outside aid programs. Social networks including family, neighbors, church groups and farming groups were found to stabilize the food system even in periods of severe drought. Outside aid programs were found to be less satisfactory than community-based projects because they failed to fully understand the cultural and social issues present within the food system. Overall, the findings suggest that informal social networks are important for a healthy and functioning food system in Kenya. In addition, findings suggest that social networks are important in promoting both physical and mental health and well-being within the community.

(8) Food decision-making, Kenya, food system, social networks, social capital, food security

Interactions between family food decision-making systems and community food systems

In this paper we discuss the interrelationships between family food decision-making systems and community food systems. These systems affect both the health and well-being of family members in the sustainability of community food systems. Family food decision-making involves complex, dynamic, and evolving interaction among family members. Community food systems typically involve a mix of global and local sourcing and the family food decision-making processes shape the relative portion of global and local foods provisioned. We described the family food decision-making system, based on research with families and change agents, as it interacts with community food systems. A family's food and eating practices relate, in part, to its internal dynamics as well as a character of its community food system. This interaction impacts the availability, accessibility, and appreciation of types of foods, which is important in changing the eating practices and food choices that impact health and well-being. At the same time, these interactions can influence the viability and improve the sustainability of community food systems. Family food decision-making takes place in contexts of surrounding social and biophysical systems which include food systems. Related informal family policies, e.g., eating local food whenever possible, involve overtime through shared experience and also impact the dynamic interactions among food systems. Thus, understanding these interactions can form possibilities for bringing together the perspectives of decision-makers to create a preferred future for local food and agriculture as well as improving the health and well-being of family members.

Cooking Together for Family Meals - Moving from Intention to Implementation in Family Food Decisions. 

Our research has shown that moving from behavioral intention to implementation is a critical decision juncture in the family food decision-making system. Preliminary data suggest that the Cornell Cooperative Extension program, Cooking Together for Family Meals (CTFM), is an effective strategy for supporting change. Families gain human and social capital, including an appreciation for vegetables and other healthful food choices. The small group class supports positive parent/child interactions and a shared learning experience among families. Families learn to prepare and share meals together while gaining an appreciation for less commonly consumed vegetables such as kale, butternut squash, cabbage, and black beans and for locally grown vegetables. As a result of participating in the 6-session class, families reported using more vegetables and a wider selection of vegetables in meals prepared at home. Parents valued the shared cooking experience for the time together and for the skills their child learned. CTFM helps families to make more thoughtful food decisions which can lead to sustainable healthy eating patterns and food choices. By supporting the decision-making process and engaging families in creating healthy family food decision-making systems, CTFM provides a family-based approach for addressing the obesity epidemic. Families not only improve their own health and well-being but also increase the healthfulness and sustainability of their community food system by decisions that impact external social and biophysical environments.

(8) behavioral intention, implementation, family food decision-making, cooking

Medicinal and Medicated Food Decision-making of Taiwanese Immigrants in North America

Culture and the value of foods influence food decision-making across the life trajectory and at turning points of life stages. Within the larger culture, families perform as agents of food distribution, offering knowledge, tradition, and practices relating to specific food uses. Community food systems play a role in food decision-making as well by absorbing and exchanging information collected from and shared by families and by providing food itself. In some communities, such as those of Asian cultures, foods with medicinal functionality are highly valued, and knowledge about such foods is transmitted across generations and geographical boundaries. This paper will present a preliminary exploration of medicinal and medicated (m-m) food uses among Taiwanese immigrants in North America. Taiwanese come from agriculturally productive subtropical Pacific islands with a population of multicultural origins and a history of European and Japanese colonization. Use of functional foods and herbal formulas is common, partly because Taiwan’s national medical insurance covers both western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. Taiwanese immigrants retain their ties to Taiwan and emphasize family values. The adaptation of Taiwanese immigrants to the North American food environment may involve a reciprocal impact on that food environment itself, leading to changes in the appreciation, availability, and accessibility of m-m foods once preferred by these immigrants, their families, and their communities. At the same time, Taiwanese immigrants’ m-m food decision-making may affect the larger agricultural and health systems beyond their communities, helping to exemplify the ecological view of local and global sourcing of food systems.

Cooking Together for Family Meals: A New Program Fostering Family Members’ Food Related Skills and Positive Family Dynamics

Presented at annual meeting of the American Dietetics Association: October 20, 2009, Denver, CO. Powerpoint Presentation.

Curbing the national obesity epidemic calls for innovative community nutrition programs that help busy families prepare quick, healthy and low cost family meals. Cooking Together for Family Meals (CTFM) is a new program piloted by Cornell Cooperative Extension in New York State which draws upon family food decision-making research to help middle-school age children and their parents work together to prepare and enjoy eating vegetable rich meals. It exposes children and their parents to new recipes and vegetables (dark leafy greens, winter squashes, cruciferous vegetables, beans) and builds kitchen skills (cutting techniques, diverse cooking methods (stir fry, soups, stews), safe food and utensils handling). Although not a primary goal, they learn about the nutritional value of foods along the way. But uniquely, CTFM enables children to play a new role in the family food preparation, and builds children’s and parents’ confidence in their mutual ability to engage positively in food related activities. Through the hands-on approach based on experiential learning theory, facilitators move children and parents from “doing” the activities to “reflecting” on their experience as a whole. CTFM not only develops new food related skills, knowledge and behaviors, but it also fosters positive family dynamics, essential to the sustainability of healthy family food related behaviors and routines. Six months to a year post program, interviewed graduates revealed the positive influence of the program on the quality of their family interactions around food related activities. CTFM has the potential for a deep impact on family food decision making and behaviors.

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