Food insecurity is an urgent public health issue for Aboriginal people in Canada because of high rates of poverty; the effects of global climate change and environmental pollution on traditional food systems; and high rates of diet-related diseases. However, to date, public health has operated with conceptualizations of food security that were developed in non-Aboriginal contexts; they do not take full account of the traditional food practices of Aboriginal people or Aboriginal conceptualizations of food security. In this paper, I argue that there are unique food security considerations for Aboriginal people related to the harvesting, sharing and consumption of country or traditional foods, which impact the four pillars of food security: access, availability, supply and utilization. Thus food security conceptualizations, policies, and programs for Aboriginal people must consider both the market food system and traditional food system. Given the centrality of traditional food practices to cultural health and survival, I propose that cultural food security is an additional level of food security beyond individual, household and community levels. Conceptualizations of food security for Aboriginal people will be incomplete without qualitative research to understand Aboriginal perspectives; such research must take account of the diversity of Aboriginal people.
This paper draws on four bodies of literature to consider the determinants of healthy eating for low-income Canadians: a) the social determinants of health; b) socio-economic gradients in diet; c) food security; and d) the sociology of food. Though there is a paucity of data for Canada, it is very likely that, as in other industrialized countries, there are socio-economic gradients in diet such that those who are better off consume healthier diets than those less well-to-do. The available evidence suggests that income affects food intake both directly and indirectly through the dispositions associated with particular social class locations. Thus, there may be both economic and cultural thresholds for some food groups or particular foods in food groups. Understanding these thresholds is especially important in addressing the issues facing those who are the most vulnerable among Canadians with low incomes: the food insecure. The literature reviewed suggests that improved nutrition for low-income Canadians may be difficult to achieve a) in isolation from other changes to improve their lives; b) without improvement in the nutrition of the general population of Canadians; and c) without some combination of these two changes. Four major areas of research need were identified: a) national data on socio-economic gradients in diet; b) sociological research on the interaction of income and class with other factors affecting food practices; c) sociological research on Canadian food norms and cultures; and d) research on the costs of healthy eating.
Food insecurity affected over 2.3 million Canadians in 2004. To date, the food security literature has not considered the potential impact of economic abuse on food security, but there are three ways in which these two important public health issues may be related: 1) victims of economic abuse are at risk of food insecurity when they are denied access to adequate financial resources; 2) the conditions that give rise to food insecurity may also precipitate intimate partner violence in all its forms; 3) women who leave economically abusive intimate heterosexual relationships are more likely to live in poverty and thus are at risk of food insecurity. This paper presents a case of one woman who, during a qualitative research interview, spontaneously reported economic abuse and heterosexual interpersonal violence. The economic abuse suffered by this participant appears to have affected her food security and that of her children, while her husband's was apparently unaffected. There is an urgent need to better understand the nature of intra-household food distribution in food-insecure households and the impact of economic abuse on its victims' food security. Such an understanding may lead to improved food security measurement tools and social policies to reduce food insecurity.
How is the qualitative research analyst to understand apparently contradictory remarks made by a research participant? Although social scientists in the positivist tradition rely on methods such as triangulation to find "truth," interpretive social scientists listen beyond, between, and underneath participants' words to understand the social conditions that produce apparent contradictions in their accounts. In this article, the author presents a case study of making sense of a research participant's contradictory comments, using a theoretical framework to understand the participant's "logic of practice." Through interpretive listening and reflexivity during the data analysis, she came to understand the participant's contradictory remarks in a way that illuminated the contradictions, as well as a significant process in the participant's life at the time: the transformation from carefree daughter to responsible mother. Such an interpretive analysis does not produce "truth" as positivist social scientists require but offers instead the satisfaction of understanding.