Living on the edge: Dietary strategies of economically impoverished women in Cali, Colombia

Darna L. Dufour, Lisa K. Staten, Julio C. Reina, G. B. Spurr

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

35 Scopus citations


Economically impoverished women in Cali, Colombia, have restricted access to food in a city where food is abundant. Ethnographic observations, interviews and 2 day food records were used to better understand the coping strategies used by a group of these women (n = 85) to maintain adequate levels of energy intake. Anthropometric indicators of nutritional status were normal for the group. Interview data revealed that the ability to purchase food was a concern for 58% of the women. When faced with a restricted ability to purchase food, the women indicated they made compromises in meal composition, reduced portion sizes, and/or reduced the number of meals. They also relied on relatives, friends, neighbors, store credit, or local government programs for access to food. Changes in meal composition were identified in 17.1% of all diet records (n 509). Low energy intake (defined as energy intake ≤ 1.27 x BMR) was identified in 17.1% of all diet records. Carbohydrate consumption was significantly greater on low-energy intake days. The adequate nutritional status of this group of women suggests that their coping strategies are usually adequate to maintain energy intake, but the presence of uncertainty, the frequency of compromises in diet composition, and the frequency of low-energy intake days suggest that these women are at risk for undernutrition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-15
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • coping strategies
  • developing country
  • diet
  • poverty
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology

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