Opening the box: Intrahousehold food allocation in rural Nepal

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Abstract

The study examined intrahousehold food behavior in six villages in a rural hill area of mid-Western Nepal. Qualitative and quantitative methodologies taken from both anthropology and nutritional sciences were used to collect data on food belief systems, household allocation of food resources, and the effect of these features on diet and anthropometric status in a sample of 767 individuals in 115 households. Background data were also collected on socioeconomic status and demographic variables such as education levels, occupation, and migration patterns. The core methodological approach used direct structured observations of meals to examine how food is distributed within households. The results document a variety of mechanisms by which some individuals are favored over others through household food distribution, including serving order, serving method, refusing to serve foods, channeling foods and substituting low status foods for high status foods. No differences were observed in mechanisms of food distribution or nutrient intake between male and female children, contrary to evidence in the literature suggesting that male children will be favored. On the other hand, adult women were less likely to meet their nutrient requirements for energy, beta-carotene, riboflavin, and vitamin C than men of the same age. Women's late position in household serving order, channeling of special foods to males and children, and lower total intake of food accounts for these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1141-1154
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume33
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 1991

Keywords

  • Nepal
  • age/sex differences
  • diet
  • food beliefs and practices
  • intrahousehold food distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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