International Women’s Day is the perfect time to dig into a brand-new report on something that preoccupies many women: ensuring people around them can eat sufficient, healthy, appealing food. The report is based on local research that considers how mothers living on low incomes in Peterborough feed their families AND the kinds of support provided by local, mostly women-organized community food programs (like Peterborough community gardens, A Taste of Nourish, Nourish Havelock, Peterborough Gleans, JustFood, Come Cook With Us, and Collective Kitchens). The study found feeding families to be complex work strongly tied to women’s sense of identity and worth. Both the mothers and the community programs showed that food work is still feminized, under-resourced, and undervalued. For everyone to eat adequately, food programming must be complemented by government action that addresses food insecurity and poverty. If you are interested in how moms and food programs are supporting eaters OR what democracy has to do with it all, then check out Moms Feeding Families on Low Incomes in Peterborough and the Support of Community-Based Food Initiatives.
This study examines the household foodwork of low-income mothers in Peterborough, Ontario and the ways in which community food initiatives (CFIs), such as community gardens and cooking workshops, can help these women ensure that their families are adequately fed. It specifically considers:
• What influences shape the household food practices of low-income mothers in Peterborough City and County?
• What can CFIs learn to help them support this group of women?
• How can CFIs help to address more structural issues, like poverty and food insecurity, that low-income mothers face around foodwork?
The study draws on interviews with representatives from seven Peterborough CFIs (Peterborough Community Gardens, A Taste of Nourish, Nourish Havelock, Peterborough Gleans, JustFood, Come Cook With Us, Collective Kitchens); interviews with and illustrations by 21 local low-income mothers; debrief sessions following participant mothers’ tours of CFIs; and my own ongoing involvement with the Nourish Project and Peterborough Food Action Network.
Analysis of the results shows that mothers’ foodwork is challenged by inadequate income, food insecurity, and not enough time, as well as high social standards around both motherhood and self-reliance. This work also requires significant practical, cognitive, and emotional effort. Specifically, the mothers experience pressure to be:
• “good” at mothering by taking primary responsibility for children’s well-being through food,
• “good” at consumerism by participating in society through purchase, choice, and thriftiness, and
• “good” at food program (both CFI and food bank) participation by showing gratitude and not seeming to rely too much on these programs.