Through the lens of our cameras: children’s lived experience with food security in a Canadian Indigenous community.
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The related issues of food security and obesity among North American Indigenous children are serious public health concerns. This community-based participatory study sought to gain deeper understanding of young First Nation children's lived experience with food and to learn, from their perspective, about food security issues in their community.
In this Photovoice investigation 26 young children attending a rural reserve school in Canada were asked to take photographs of the food they ate. Nine high school students from the same school were trained as co-researchers: they interviewed the younger students, helped identify emerging themes and contributed to knowledge translation. Data analysis incorporated conventional content analysis, grounded theory's constant-comparative method, and examination of photos and texts.
Five primary findings emerged from photographs and interviews: (1) children had a dualistic understanding of healthy vs. unhealthy foods; (2) packaged, quick-preparation foods played a dominant role in children's everyday food experiences; (3) families were critical to children's food-related experiences; (4) although traditional foods are viewed as central to Aboriginal health, few were depicted in the photographs; and (5) photos do not tell the whole story – despite the smaller numbers of fruits and vegetables in photos, children like to eat these foods when they are available at home.
The study improved understanding of children's everyday food-related experiences, provided insight into community food security, and demonstrated the contribution of children and youth as experts on their lives and matters affecting them. A photobook representing findings provided a rich, visual tool for communicating the food-related experiences of children and messages about healthy eating within the school and to community members and leaders. Intervention efforts can build on participants' understanding of healthy versus unhealthy foods and on the critical role of family for healthy eating.