Return to HDC Program

Session 2: 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM


Moderated by Grace Munene, Assistant Director, International Summer Service Learning Program- Africa


Gretchen Bruening, University of Notre Dame
Cultural Perceptions of Food Allergies in Africa

In recent years, food allergies have become a more prevalent issue worldwide. Many studies have been conducted regarding the prevalence of food allergies in the developed world, but few have been done on cultural perceptions surrounding food allergies in the developing world. This study seeks to understand the cultural perceptions of food allergies in Africa by drawing connections between food practices and attitudes towards food allergies. An online survey was used to collect data on sample characteristics, general food practices, and perceptions of food allergies and those who suffer from them. The survey received 45 responses from individuals from seven countries in Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, Senegal, Lesotho, Namibia, and Zambia), who were recruited through social media and networks provided by a classmate. Data was collected through Qualtrics and analyzed using SPSS. Findings show that there is a generally respectful perception of food allergies among the population surveyed. The results show that individuals who spend more time cooking, are more educated, and are older have more respectful perceptions of food allergies because they are more willing to accommodate them. Future research should be conducted with a larger sample size to determine with a higher degree of confidence the factors that have an impact on food allergy perceptions, or if there are other factors that influence attitudes towards food allergies that were not covered in this research. Future studies should also use in-person methods, if possible, to conduct in-depth interviews and ethnographic observation of food practices.

Haley (Liz) Williams, University of Tulsa
Thiéboudienne: A Look into the Intersection of Cuisine and Community in Senegal

Senegal’s national dish, Thiéboudienne, composed of rice and fish, is the center of many Senegalese people's diets around the country regardless of ethnic background or economic status. The majority of Senegalese people choose to eat Thiéboudienne and other meals joined together, all sitting around the same bowl. In this creative research project, I uncover the significance of Thiéboudienne and how the dish illustrates the importance of community and hospitality–– or teranga–– in Senegal. I answer the question: how does Thiéboudienne represent and cultivate teranga in Senegal and can that experience of community engagement through Thiéboudienne be replicated away from its origin? As I learn to make the meal myself, I discover the history of the dish and how each of the traditional ingredients are sourced. On the journey to prepare the meal for my community at home, I document via video log how I engage with my community more and still experience teranga even though I am not able to be in Senegal due to COVID-19. Lastly, I explore how Thiéboudienne as a meal represents a decolonial journey for Senegal itself, as the country has taken something stemming from colonial influence and transformed it into the national dish truly representative of their own unique values. My creative approach of not only cooking, but documenting my project via video log and website, allows for the research to be more exploratory and accessible in nature.

Kelly Koehnen, University of Notre Dame
A Colonial Diet: Approaching Human Dignity Through Dietary Policy

My research topic area of interest is how Puerto Rico’s enculturation of the Nutrition Assistance program is affecting the social, dietary, and cultural experience of citizens in San Juan. Currently, 42% of PR residents are receiving food stamps funded by the continental US, and 85% of food consumed there is imported from the United States itself in a mercantilist economic model. I originally hypothesized that the Puerto Rican response to domestic food dependence lies on a spectrum from “degrading but necessary” to “empowering tool for family security,” especially in light of the failure of the industrialization efforts of Operation Bootstrap and increased economic instability due to Hurricane María and recent earthquakes. Though there is undoubtedly a variety of local opinion on the matter, my intensive literature review on the topic challenges Americans to recognize our accountability for the emotional implications of territorial dietary legislation in order to work towards an economically and nutritionally sustainable model to facilitate an increase in dignity for family providers in Puerto Rico.