Barriers to food procurement, the experience of urban aboriginal women in Winnipeg

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Sinclaire, Moneca
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In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with a snow-ball or reputational sample of 19 Aboriginal women who were single-parents. The purpose was to explore the women's experiences of grocery shopping and to document possible impact of the cultural norm, of obligation, on their shopping patterns. Unstructured interviews with key informants, participant observations and cognitive mapping were used as the primary methods of data collection. These methodologies were selected to facilitate an in-depth study of experiences, attitudes, and perceptions of the participants, as they related to food selection. The Aboriginal women in this research not only experienced barriers related to financial insecurity they experienced the unique barrier of the "obligation" system imbedded in the Aboriginal culture. In Aboriginal culture the extended family, composed of immediate relatives and close friends, functioned as a co-operative unit to create and obtain the necessities of life such as food, shelter, and clothing (Nagler, 1970). The barriers imbedded in financial insecurity were: (a) geographical distance, and the need for improved (b) housing, (c) transportation, and (d) child care. In this study the methods women used to obtain more food or money were: (a) using food banks; (b) borrowing money; (c) pawning of durable goods, such as a video cassette recorder; (d) development of credit with the local neighbourhood grocery stores; (e) and receiving country foods from family or friends. Whereas the cultural barrier intensified their financial insecurity since the coping mechanisms involved methods that meant spending additional money or further mental stress. If a woman did not want the visiting relatives to stay at her home the woman would, for example, move to a new location without notifying her relatives. This method meant the woman had to use her limited income for moving. It is important to understand the woman's food choices because ultimately the dietary practices of a mother affect the health of her children.