“Now we got lots to eat and they’re telling us not to eat it”: understanding changes to south-east Labrador Inuit relationships to food

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Martin, Debbie H. (2012)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: International Journal of Circumpolar Health (issn: 1797-237X, eissn: 1239-9736)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/ijch.v70i4.17842
  • Subject: Inuit health, nutrition, food studies, qualitative research

Objectives. Culture, history and social circumstances shape how people understand their relationships to food, what foods are eaten, when, how much and how often. This ultimately shapes overall health. This study aims to connect research about food, culture and health by positioning south-eastern Labrador Inuit understandings of food at the forefront of how we begin to address chronic disease within southeastern Labrador Inuit communities. Study design. This study collected stories about food from 3 generations of men and women who live in the south-east Labrador Inuit community of St. Lewis, Newfoundland and Labrador. Methods. Qualitative interviews (n=24) and 1 focus group (n=8) were conducted with 3 generations of men and women who were asked to share stories about how they experience and understand their relationships to food. Results. Local plants and animals have historically been used for shelter, clothing and medicines, and their procurement provided opportunities for physical activity, sharing with others and passing along generational knowledge. The historical absence of government services has meant that stable food supplies were unavailable; local sources of food have, until the recent past, been essential for survival. The significant change over a short period, from having to ensure that one has enough to eat and avoiding nutritional deficiencies, to having both healthy and unhealthy food choices constantly available, has required a different “way” of understanding food. Conclusions. It is imperative that nutrition programs and resources directed towards improving the health of south-east Labrador Inuit take into account how cultural, historical and social circumstances have shaped south-east Labrador Inuit understandings of food.(Int J Circumpolar Health 2011; 70(4):384-395)Keywords: Inuit health, nutrition, food studies, qualitative research
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