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Soc Sci Med. 2003 Feb;56(3):617-30.

Sandwiching it in: spillover of work onto food choices and family roles in low- and moderate-income urban households.

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Division of Nutritional Sciences, 377 Martha van Rensselaer Hall, Cornell University, 14853-4401, Ithaca, NY, USA.


Lower status jobs, high workloads and lack of control at work have been associated with less healthful diets, but the ways through which work is connected to food choices are not well understood. This analysis was an examination of workers' experience of the relationship of their jobs to their food choices. Fifty-one multi-ethnic, urban, low- and moderate-income adults living in Upstate New York in 1995 participated in a qualitative interview study of fruit and vegetable choices and discussed employment and food choices. The workers who participated in this study described a dynamic relationship between work and food choices that they experienced in the context of their other roles and values. These workers presented a relationship that was characterized by positive and negative spillover between their jobs and their ability to fulfill family roles and promote personal health, linked by a spectrum of food choice strategies. Participants' narratives fit into three different domains: characterizations of work and their resources for food choice, strategies used to manage food choices within the constraints of work, and affect related to the negative and positive spillover of these strategies on family roles and on personal food choices. Characterizations of work as demanding and limiting or demanding and manageable differentiated participants who experienced their food choice strategies as a source of guilt and dissatisfaction (negative spillover) from those who experienced food choices as a source of pride and satisfaction (positive spillover). Ideals and values related to food choice and health were balanced against other values for family closeness and nurturing and personal achievement. Some participants found work unproblematic. These findings direct attention to a broad conceptualization of the relationship of work to food choices in which the demands and resources of the work role are viewed as they spill over into the social and temporal context of other roles and values.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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