a look at how trauma and crisis influence health, diets, and identity.

For this project, I asked parents to share how sustained periods of trauma and crisis impacted their family’s food culture and eating habits. Through these stories, common themes began to emerge. Using the lens of food culture, this presentation will explore the tightrope parents walk as they grapple with isolation, insecurity, and shifting identity.


I spoke directly with three mothers. They have one, two, and three children ranging in ages from one year to 33 years old. Two are single mothers, both survivors of domestic abuse, one still in the midst of a custody battle. The other a single parent by choice. Two identify as queer, and all three identify as white and low-income.

I also heard from 11 additional parents through a written survey. On the following page, we’ll break down the combined demographics.


Of 14 participants, 13 identified as mothers, one as a father. Their ages ranged from mid-twenties to late-sixties. Eight live in Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley, and six live in Portland.

Acknowledging the ties between food trauma & shame

Trauma is self-identified and may be anything from divorce to the death of a co-parent to living through a global pandemic. This project explores the role crisis plays in our relationships with food, family, and community.

Note: Throughout the presentation, you will see quotes from the parents, signed with initials to respect privacy. All photos are shared with permission.

There will be no shaming of food, trauma-response, or parenting.

The Pandemic

While this study was not focused on the current pandemic, each participant is, at least in part, currently undergoing a shared crisis. Some participants listed the pandemic as the onset of their crisis, but for many, it simply compounded existing traumas. The specifics of each person's experience may be different, but the trauma of attempting to exist, let alone parent, amidst a global pandemic is the same. This adds a unique layer to a complex topic.

Thank you for naming the instability we have faced this past year as trauma. It feels validating. There is so much pain in the world, that it often feels like I can’t identify my personal crises as traumatic. But as you said, it is self-identified.” R.W.

“This year, an estimated
54 million Americans, including 18 million American children, are now food insecure.”
Feeding America, 2020