Heavy burdens and healthy choices: Mothers’ perspectives on clean and healthy food in Turkey

Authors: Nurcan Atalan-Helicke*, Skidmore College
Topics: Gender, Middle East
Keywords: gender, food, anxiety, Middle East
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Studio 3, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Changes in the agri-food system associated with the lengthening of the food supply chains, standardization of diets, and new ingredients in the food system exacerbate consumer anxieties. There is a gap in the literature about consumer responses to such changes, particularly women, in the Middle East. Through a case study of Turkey, this paper discusses the concerns of mothers about clean and healthy food, in general, and genetically engineered food, in particular. The paper discusses consumer anxieties created by the media about choosing healthy and nutritious food, stigmatizing fat bodies and singling out mothers as responsible for the body size of children. It argues that the anxieties created by the introduction of a new food regime encourage urban, middle class, educated consumers, particularly observant Muslim women to evoke Islamic religious activities in a novel way, in this instance by emphasizing the selection of halal food (in addition to organic and local food) as alternative food. Based on the findings of nine focus groups carried in central Turkey in summer 2015 , the findings of the paper contributes to geographies of food consumption, and it demonstrates that food anxieties in the developing countries of the South are similar to those of consumers in the North. It also argues that structural constraints, such as lack of regulation of labeling of genetically engineered food and the sentiment that consumerism inherently leads to health outcomes, often leave women feeling overburdened and their expectations about the changes in the food system are left unmet.

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