Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Sociology

Collaborative Specialization

Migration and Ethnic Relations

Supervisor

Adams, Tracey L.

Abstract

Despite the extensive literature on immigrants’ post-migration dietary transitions and their implications for long-term health and well-being, little research has been conducted to link these processes to their integration experiences. This dissertation contributes to the current literature by examining the interrelationship between immigrants’ integration experiences – especially their economic integration – and their post-migration food choices and eating practices.

The first integrated article (Chapter 2) draws on qualitative interviews with 38 recent immigrants in two Ontario cities (Toronto and London) in Canada. First, this chapter focuses on illustrating recent immigrants’ general experiences in managing their post-migration food choices and eating practices in Canada. Second, this chapter further explores what structural aspects related to immigrants’ integration experiences play a role in shaping their opportunities and barriers to healthy eating. The next integrated article (Chapter 3) draws on qualitative interviews with 23 immigrant men and immigrant women that are heterosexually married. This chapter takes an intersectional life course approach to explore who takes on the responsibility of “feeding the family” and identifies forces and pressures that encourage taking on such a role. Further, I also examine what specific challenges these immigrant families experience and what strategies they adopt as they endeavour to produce healthy, home-cooked meals. The last integrated article (Chapter 4) is a case study using a mixed-method approach. By analyzing quantitative data from the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey, this study first examines the awareness and usage of Canada’s Food Guide among Canadian adults in Ontario, comparing how immigrants differ from native-born Canadians. Second, I draw on qualitative data from 45 in-depth interviews with recent immigrants and international students to further explore their general experiences in accessing and using Canada’s Food Guide.

The overarching goal of this dissertation is to contribute to the current literature on immigrant integration, lifestyle, health, and well-being – and also to suggest future directions for policies surrounding immigration and their health and well-being.

Summary for Lay Audience

Unhealthy food choices and eating practices have long been identified to have a negative impact on an individual’s health and well-being. Building on this well-established link between diet and health, a relatively small but growing body of literature has started to examine the link between post-migration dietary changes and immigrant health. In particular, unhealthy dietary transitions among the immigrant population have become a recent health concern among scholars in major immigrant-receiving countries, such as the United States, Australia, and Canada.

Dietary acculturation is a process by which minority groups adopt the dietary patterns of their host country. The literature on dietary acculturation finds that immigrants are more likely to make unhealthy food choices as they acculturate. Such unhealthy post-migration food choices may undermine the long-term health and well-being of the immigrant population. With the number of immigrants continuously growing, newcomers’ health and well-being have become ever more important for Canada’s future. Nonetheless, current healthy eating initiatives focus on encouraging individuals to educate themselves about making informed food choices and maintaining healthy eating practices. This approach is problematic because it posits that immigrants are solely responsible for their own health and well-being, and it neglects the role of structural factors (e.g., integration challenges) that may shape their opportunities to engage in healthy eating.

The objective of this dissertation is to address this gap by taking a sociological approach to explore the interrelationship between immigrants’ integration experiences and their post-migration food choices and eating practices. More specifically, I identify what structural aspects may shape immigrants’ post-migration food choices and eating practices and examine how these are interrelated to the inequalities they experience during their processes of settlement and integration. Through the three integrated articles presented, this dissertation adds to the current literature on immigrants’ lifestyles, specifically their diet, health, and integration. The final chapter concludes by highlighting key implications and suggesting future directions for policy and research.

Available for download on Tuesday, March 01, 2022

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