Home Food Environments of Mothers in South-Eastern Africa and California-An Illustration of Global Extremes

  •  Emma Scudero    
  •  Peggy Papathakis    
  •  Andrew Schaffner    
  •  Suzanne Phelan    


INTRODUCTION: The type and availability of food in the home is known to directly shape food intake and weight status, but cross-cultural differences remain poorly documented.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to describe and compare the home food environments of low-income, childbearing women living in a low-income country (Malawi) and a high-income country (United States). 

METHODS: A home food environment survey was available in 714 mothers in Malawi (mean BMI 19.5, mean age 22.1 years) and 371 in California (mean BMI 31.8, mean age 28.1 years).

RESULTS: Mothers in California vs. Malawi had on average (SD) 22.8 (4.4) vs. 1.2 (1.4) different food items in the home. The women in California had an abundance of fruits and vegetables that were virtually absent in the homes of Malawian women. The most prevalent food in the homes in Californian women was rice (in 97% homes) and in Malawian women was corn flour (in 47% of homes).

CONCLUSIONS: Given the global extremes in food availability, efforts to address over and under food availabilities in the homes of childbearing women need to move beyond country centric approaches. It is time to consider maternal and child health as a global priority.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.