Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition
Society for Medical Anthropology
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Although urbanization has led to increased physical access to a greater variety of foods, the competing economic demands for housing, transportation, and schooling can result in persistent food insecurity (FI) in these settings. Traditional metrics of FI do not capture the nuances of the coexistence of hunger and overweight/obesity. Techniques from biocultural anthropology can be used to better understand FI coping strategies and the potential pathways underlying the associations between FI and poor health.This study employed a sequential mixed methods design to examine the correlates of vulnerability to FI and poor health in two communities in an urban informal settlement in Northern Lima, Peru. Qualitative coding and statistical analysis were used with focus group, individual interview, survey, anthropometric measurement, and biomarker data. Eighty-eight percent of households were classified as FI. Women reported taking strategic actions to cope with FI and buffer their children from hunger. These actions are not cost neutral and likely contributed to psychosocial and embodied stress. Along with the intergenerational transmission of risk factors, the low intake of fruits and vegetables and high consumption of starches likely contributes to high rates of overweight/obesity in women and their children. Researchers and public health practitioners must adjust their expectations of how FI presents in these evolutionary novel environments. They should seek an in-depth understanding of diet and activity patterns to plan more effective approaches, including shifting interventions from those focused on individual behaviors to addressing the broader determinants of health.