When children cannot invite friends to have a snack’: article in Público newspaper, Portugal

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Público, one of the leading Portuguese newspapers, published an article on the Families and Food in Hard Times research project last Tuesday, as part of a series on the occasion of World Food Day (October 16th).  The piece is entitled “When children cannot invite friends to have a snack”. The article starts by pointing out that food poverty does not necessarily entail an empty fridge. It addresses some implications of being food poor, namely social exclusion, anxiety and stress, drawing on examples from the Portuguese sample.

The reporter interviewed Mónica Truninger and Vasco Ramos, members of the Portuguese team working on the FFHT project. A compromised ability to engage in social participation around food is a major finding of the study, something that resonates soundly in Portugal where eating out or having friends over is common for the majority of the population. The piece also stresses that parents report not being able to buy enough food or that its quality is not adequate. Parents emphasize the absence of fresh fish and over-reliance on poultry or pork. Many families eat soup and often this is the only food parents have for dinner, to ensure a complete meal for children (with meat, fish or other). Incidental episodes of hunger and extreme coping strategies such as skipping meals are also reported.

The article also addresses the contribution of the study to demystify expectations about rural poverty, namely assumptions about traditional exchange mechanisms and informal networks or easy access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Most parents of the families that participated in the study are working poor – i.e., they are employed full-time but their living wages are insufficient to make ends meet. Moreover, it shows how low-income families feel judged on their food practices and coping strategies. For example, when they buy in bulk or when they receive food ordered online, something perceived by others as a well-off practice, but cheaper for someone living in a ‘food desert’. The piece ends by calling attention to the symbolic violence that many low-income families deal with on a daily basis, and how important it is to look at this issue in a less simplistic form.

The full piece can be read (in Portuguese) at: https://www.publico.pt/2018/10/16/sociedade/noticia/quando-os-filhos-nao-podem-convidar-os-amigos-para-lanchar-1847546

Photo by Miguel Feraso Cabral

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