Since most parents in the US are employed, there are competing demands on their time that can compromise food choices for themselves and their children. How parents cope with these demands and how work conditions are related to food choice coping strategies are the subjects of a study in the September/October issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. Findings suggest that better work conditions may be associated with more positive strategies such as more home-prepared meals, eating with the family, keeping healthful food at work, and less meal skipping.
Researchers from Cornell University measured food choice coping strategies in low- to middle-income families in five categories: (1) food prepared at/away from home; (2) missing meals; (3) individualizing meals (family eats differently, separately, or together); (4) speeding up to save time; and (5) planning. A three-part telephone survey of 25 employed mothers and 25 employed fathers or guardians from 3 racial/ethnic groups was used to evaluate food choice strategies.
Half or more of respondents often/sometimes used 12 of 22 food choice coping strategies and there were gender differences in the use of these strategies. Fathers who worked long hours or had nonstandard hours and schedules were more likely to use take-out meals, miss family meals, purchase prepared entrees, and eat while working. Mothers purchased restaurant meals or prepared entrees or missed breakfast. Job security, satisfaction, and food access were also associated with gender-specific strategies. About a quarter of mothers and fathers said they did not have access to healthful, reasonably priced, and/or good-tasting food at or near work.