Traditional Food Practices, Attitudes, and Beliefs in Urban Alaska Native Women Receiving WIC Assistance

Authors: Amanda Walch, PhD, MPH, RDN, Philip Loring, PhD, Rhonda Johnson, PhD, Melissa Tholl, BS, RDN, Andrea Bersamin, PhD

Publication Year: 2019

Last Updated: March 2019

Journal: Journal of Nutritional Education Behavior

Keywords: Nutrition; Population Information


Short Abstract:


Abstract: Background: Traditional foods play an important cultural role in AI/AN populations and have been associated with psychological and psychosocial health and well-being. Low rates of traditional food intake have been reported to negatively impact food security, diet quality, and overall health. It is unknown to what extent urban Alaskan Native individuals consume traditional foods and the knowledge and attitudes they have about traditional foods. Purpose of Study: To identify practices, attitudes, and beliefs associated with intake of traditional foods among low-income urban Alaska Native women. Type of Info: Data Method: Participants were given two surveys to recall what they ate in the past 24 hours, a “traditional food frequency questionnaire,” and a survey that asked about the participant's beliefs about traditional foods. Surveys were tailored and reviewed to be culturally relevant to an Alaskan Native population. Sample: 71 self-identified adult Alaskan Native women, that were not pregnant or breastfeeding, and were currently participating in the WIC assistance programs in urban centers of Alaska. Results: Traditional foods contributed only 3.7% of the total daily calories for participants. In previous research, people living in traditional rural Alaskan Native communities reported 15-22% of their daily caloric intake being from traditional foods. 63% of participants wanted half or more of their foods to be traditional (not store-bought either) and 64% believed that traditional foods were healthier than store-bought foods. The majority of participants (73%) relied on food sharing networks for access to traditional foods, with 66% of Alaskan Native women on WIC receiving food from friends/family in rural Alaska. 60% of participants agreed that lack of money was a contributing factor for not subsistence fishing/hunting. Limitations/Things to Know: Small sample size. The food intake survey may have overestimated the amount of traditional foods eaten daily, however the reported intake was already very low and any impact would likely be minor. Conclusion: Food sharing networks are an important factor for low-income urban Alaskan Native women to access traditional foods. It may be beneficial for Organizations that work with Alaska Natives to incorporate traditional food practices into their programs, i.e. cooking classes, traditional fishing groups, traditional food gardens/pantries, etc.. Low-income Alaskan Native women that are isolated from rural Alaskan Native communities may also be isolated from traditional food practices. Additionally, SNAP could expand allowances to include the purchase of items necessary for subsistence hunting and fishing.


Source: Link to Original Article.