CORVALLIS, Ore. A new study by Oregon State University researchers shows that those in poverty in rural Oregon often know what kinds of foods they should be eating, but face tough choices between eating well and spending less money for meals.
Joan Gross and Nancy Rosenberger, both professors of anthropology at OSU, examined the "double binds" of rural Oregonians living in poverty by conducting in-depth interviews with 76 low-income households in two rural Benton County communities. Their paper will be published in the December issue of the journal, Food, Culture & Society.
They found that when times were tough and money tight, food became a flexible expense.
"Paying the mortgage, keeping the electricity on, making sure you have enough money for medical care, these were the priorities," Gross said.
Oregon's economic inequality is one of the highest in the nation. From the 1970s to 2005, the wealthiest 1 percent of Oregonians tripled their income while the typical family saw no income change. Rosenberger and Gross said those they surveyed did not come from generations of poverty, and most of them were working, sometimes two or more jobs. Instead, respondents were people with middle class jobs, and a health emergency or a layoff at work that made them unable to maintain their same standard of living.
"The people we talked to thought of themselves as middle class, even though they might be on food stamps and make a wage far below the poverty line," Rosenberger said. "This is what we mean by double binds inculcated habits that do not match the changing field in social, economic and political ways."
Specifically, researchers found the low-income families they interviewed often did things against their own better judgment. Even when people knew what foods they should be eating, they stuck with food habits acquired while growing up. One man who was diabetic was aware of what he should and shouldn't be eat
|Contact: Joan Gross|
Oregon State University