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Research Urban and Regional Studies Institute PRC

Social and cultural meaning of food and food practices and its role in the decision-making process in households in North and East of Groningen

Principal researcher

Sanne Visser

Type of research



Prof. dr. I. Hutter

Dr. ir. H.H. Haisma


Food patterns and its relation to well-being and health is not only influenced by indicators as access to health care and income, but also by social norms, attitude of life and home- and identity-making. In understanding obesity it is important to recognize the role that culture plays in the negotiation of multiple messages. There are manifold cultural meanings surrounding food practices and preferences in all societies. The choice of food is, next to the expression of pleasure and satisfaction, also an expression of the identity of a person or a set of persons.

In the North and East of Groningen (the Netherlands) obesity percentages are growing. It is known that intervention programmes addressing overweight are lacking impact in low socioeconomic population groups in this and other regions. With this study we would like to define the social and cultural background of childhood obesity by exploring the meaning of food and food practices in households in the North East of Groningen.

By doing an ethnography of a community in the region, the social and cultural structures are revealed and can contribute to better understanding of the food culture and perceived images of children and parents on food and obesity. Observations, in-depth and photo-elicited interviews (PEI) are used to disclose the role of cultural schemas, habits and norms in the home food environment and ideas of how parents, grandparents as well as the children understand their choices. With this study food choices of households will become more explicit and can contribute to the development of culturally adopted interventions for prevention of overweight.


Visser, S.S., Bailey, A. & Meijering, L. (accepted for publication). Food, faith and community. Social well-being of Ghanian migrants in the Netherlands. Gender, Place and Culture.

Douma, L.E. & Visser, S.S. (2013). Zorggebruik door zorgmijdende diabetespatiënten. Een verkennend onderzoek in Oost-Groningen. (Care use of diabetic patients. An explorative Study in Eastern Groningen). Research Report carried out in the request of Masterplan Zorg voor de Toekomst Noord- en Oost-Groningen (in Dutch).

Last modified:07 August 2020 3.00 p.m.