How Latina mothers navigate a 'food swamp' to feed their children: a photovoice approach

Public Health Nutr. 2017 Aug;20(11):1941-1952. doi: 10.1017/S1368980017000738. Epub 2017 May 18.


Objective: To understand how mothers who recently migrated from Central America to the USA feed their children in a neighbourhood saturated with unhealthful food choices ('food swamp') and to formulate a mother-driven plan of action to facilitate their acquisition of foods. Design/Setting/Subjects We purposively sampled mothers with children (<10 years old) who were recent immigrants/refugees from Central America and lived in a 'food swamp' neighbourhood. We used the photovoice approach to elicit textual data from thirty in-depth interviews, a participatory workshop, and visual data from photographs. Analyses were guided by the Social Ecological Framework and Social Cognitive Theory to identify barriers, facilitators and strategies that support parents in feeding their children.

Results: Mothers valued foods that they considered to be 'traditional' and 'healthful'. They navigated their food retail environment looking for these foods (of good quality and well-priced). Food values were reinforced by pre-migration food customs and culture, health professionals' advice and, in some cases, by the desire to avoid conflict with their children. The neighbourhood food environment could directly influence children's food preferences and often created conflict between what the child wanted to eat and the foods that mothers valued. Mothers in this 'food swamp' wanted to be engaged in addressing the selection of foods offered in schools and in neighbourhood food venues to reflect their own food values.

Conclusions: These mothers' feeding choices were influenced directly by their food values, and indirectly by the neighbourhood and school food environments via their children's preferences.

Keywords: Food environment; Food swamp; Latino/Hispanic; Qualitative research.

MeSH terms

  • Central America
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Diet, Healthy / psychology
  • Food Preferences / psychology
  • Food Services
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Hispanic Americans*
  • Humans
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Schools
  • Social Environment