Based on the knowledge that children learn to eat and develop lifelong nutritional patterns as part of their families, and that parental incarceration breaks family units apart, I investigate the question: How does a parent’s incarceration shape the trajectory of a child’s developmental food environment, including meal structure, staple foods, and changes in routine? I predicted that parental incarceration would be associated with negative changes in a child’s food environment by disrupting previously held family eating routines and by creating additional barriers to healthfully feeding a family. I conducted semi-structured interviews with formerly incarcerated parents or co-parents whose partners are currently imprisoned. Analysis of the interviews shows evidence of family eating pattern disruption and constrained choice limiting food options as a result of incarceration. I also found evidence of the positive effects that eating together has for families during and after a period of incarceration. These findings implicate parental incarceration as a potential factor in creating challenges and barriers to feeding a family and disruption of healthy meal patterns for children.
Related Fields/Tags: Nutrition, Food Access, Family Unit