The objective of this study was to explore how low-income parents recall and describe childhood experiences with food insecurity. Little is known about how adults remember food insecurity experienced in childhood, yet there are potential implications for subsequent behavior including parents' willingness and ability to adopt recommended child feeding practices. To guide development of a measure of previous childhood food insecurity for research and screening purposes, we conducted interviews exploring parents' emic perspectives on these early life course experiences and reactions to potential survey items. A diverse group of 27 low-income mothers in New York State was interviewed in depth; data were coded and analyzed qualitatively for emergent themes. In recounting childhood memories, participants expressed strong emotions and strove to portray their parents positively, emphasizing that parents did their best to ensure that children “always had something to eat.” Rather than dwell on food insecurity, participants preferred to share memories of family strategies to mitigate food shortages (e.g., asking relatives for money, “stretching” meals). Participants' memories of these strategies to increase food access and acceptability and adequacy of meals were summarized in a framework integrating key themes. The emotional salience of childhood food insecurity memories suggests that these experiences could have significant implications for parental adoption of child feeding recommendations and should be considered when designing nutrition interventions. Measurement challenges identified included adults’ limited recall and awareness of food insecurity during childhood, stigma, and desire to portray parents positively. Qualitative analysis of rich, emic data on food insecurity experiences offered insights on the most relevant constructs to address in survey measures of this potential antecedent of current practices.
Appetite – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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