Food provisioning strategies, food insecurity, and stress in an economically vulnerable community: the Northern Cheyenne case
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Living in poverty is associated with high levels of protracted stress associated with health problems. Economic and food insecurity are particularly poignant aspects of poverty and condition the work of securing basic daily needs of families. Recent studies suggest that levels of stress increase as family food needs rise. This paper presents new findings which clarify the relationship of food provisioning to stress levels, by examining actual food provisioning strategies and food insecurity among the Northern Cheyenne Indians of southeastern Montana. Results clearly show that stress varies by types of food acquisition strategies. Contrary to our expectations, more complex strategies, including relatively unpredictable and cumbersome food provisioning activities, are not linked to higher stress levels in our analysis. Controlling for food security levels, households using a combination of local programs and informal subsistence sources are the least stressed, despite the demands of managing a large number of food sources. Households primarily using Food Stamps are the most likely to experience high levels of stress. Interviews with Food Stamp recipients show that potential sources of stress include inadequate allocations of Food Stamps, difficulty achieving and maintaining eligibility, challenges to complying with paperwork and appointment requirements, as well as personal obstacles and community barriers to making food stamps last. Analyses indicate that contradictions between local cultural norms for food provisioning and the realities of food insecurity in this context promote strategies emphasizing greater independence from federal food programs.
KeywordsPoverty Stress Food security Food provisioning Food programs Northern Cheyenne
We would like to acknowledge funding from the USDA small grants program (1999–2001) and the Northern Cheyenne researchers and community members who participated in this research project.
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