Socialization for Scarcity: Child Feeding Beliefs and Practices in a Haitian Village

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ABSTRACT

In this report, we will present a somewhat detailed description and analysis of the food-related beliefs and behaviours of a community of Haitian peasant cultivators located in the Cul-de-Sac Plain. Our intention is to synthesize for readers interested in Haitian peasant life a complex body of information which we gathered on matters specifically related to food. This entails descriptions not only of community nutrition beliefs and ideals but also of actual community behaviour with respect to the preparation and distribution of food. Our hope is to present a clear, descriptive, dejargonized account of what people do to feed themselves and – especially – their children. This will entail delving into local belief systems on the one hand but also making clear the factor which produces increasingly common deviations from these beliefs and ideals. Much of rural Haiti is suffering nutritional stress, and one current body of opinion begins with the premise of nutritional ignorance on the part of peasants as an important cause of this stress. Our research findings simply do not accord with this guiding premise, and we will try to present our own description of what we found to be an impressively accurate understanding of human nutrition. The failure of the Haitian population to achieve nutritional well-being is due principally to defects in local knowledge or belief, but to factors lodged for the most part in a deteriorating rural economy.

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