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Health Promot Int. 2012 Sep;27(3):405-15. doi: 10.1093/heapro/dar037. Epub 2011 Jun 21.

'Trying to make it all come together': structuration and employed mothers' experience of family food provisioning in Canada.

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  • 1Department of Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2.


This research examined the aetiology of employed mothers' food choice and food provisioning decisions using a qualitative, grounded theory methodology. Semi-structured interviews using the Food Choice Map were conducted with eleven middle-income employed mothers of elementary school-age children. Results demonstrated that the women exhibited conflicting identities with respect to food choice and provisioning. As 'good mothers' they were the primary food and nutrition caregivers for the family, desiring to provide healthy, homemade foods their families preferred at shared family meals. They also sought to be independent selves, working outside the home, within the context of a busy modern family. Increased food autonomy of children, and lack of time due to working outside the home and children's involvement in extracurricular activities, were significant influences on their food choice and provisioning. This resulted in frequently being unable to live up to their expectations of consistently providing healthy homemade foods and having shared family meals. To cope, the women frequently relied on processed convenience and fast foods despite their acknowledged inferior nutritional status. Using Giddens' structuration theory, the dynamic relationships between the women's food choice and provisioning actions, their identities and larger structures including socio-cultural norms, conditions of work and the industrial food system were explored. The ensuing dietary pattern of the women and their families increases the risk of poor health outcomes, including obesity. These results have implications for public health responses to improve population health by shifting the focus from individual-level maternal influences to structural influences on diet.

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