ITHICA – Long work hours and irregular schedules are forcing people to compromise on food choices for themselves and their children, suggests a new study.
The research team from Cornell University measured food choice coping strategies in low- to middle-income families in five categories: (1) food prepared at/away from home; (2) missing meals; (3) individualizing meals (family eats differently, separately, or together); (4) speeding up to save time; and (5) planning.
They found that fathers who worked long hours or had nonstandard hours and schedules were more likely to use take-out meals, miss family meals, purchase prepared entrees, and eat while working.
Similarly, mothers were also likely to purchase restaurant meals or prepared entrees or missed breakfast.
About a quarter of mothers and fathers said they did not have access to healthful, reasonably priced, and/or good-tasting food at or near work.
The findings suggest that better work conditions may be associated with more positive strategies such as more home-prepared meals, eating with the family, keeping healthful food at work, and less meal skipping.
“This study examined how work conditions are related to the food choice coping strategies of low- and moderate-income parents,” said
“Study findings will enhance understanding of social and temporal employment constraints on adults’ food choices and may inform workplace interventions and policies…The importance of work structure for employed parents’ food choice strategies is seen in the associations between work hours and schedule and food choice coping strategies, such as meals away from home and missed family meals.
“Long work hours and irregular schedules mean more time away from family, less time for household food work, difficulty in maintaining a regular meal pattern, and less opportunity to participate in family meals; this situation may result in feelings of time scarcity, fatigue, and strain that leave parents with less personal energy for food and meals,” the researchers added.