|Methods for the Evaluation of the Impact of Food and Nutrition Programmes (UNU, 1984, 287 pages)|
|10. Anthropological methodologies for assessing household organization and structure|
The impact or effects of food programmes on the nutritional and health status of individuals is mediated. both positively and negatively, by a series of characteristics of households. For example, sanitary practices regarding food preparation and storage in the home are well recognized as factors that affect morbidity examined in relation to food intake. Since the household, in most societies. is a primary setting for the acquisition, preparation, distribution, and consumption of food, it is apparent that household composition and organization should be regarded as an intervening or confounding condition affecting the impact of nutrition and health interventions.
At the same time, it should also be recognized that household characteristics can, themselves, be strongly affected by food and nutrition programmes. For example, food programmes may change the schedule of work activities and food preparation within households. Thus, in the analysis of any supplementary feeding programme one can approach the matter of household organization and composition from two perspectives:
- as an intervening or confounding variable that has to be taken into account in assessing the impact of the programme on nutritional status; and
- from a sociological perspective. as a dependent variable (or set of variables) that is affected by the programme directly.
In practically all human societies, the household is a primary economic and social unit. It can be defined as the "smallest coherent social unit of people who reside together and maintain collective organization of food procurement and use, as well as other joint activities." Until quite recent times, the household, in many societies. was the primary unit of production as well as consumption. Industrialization, urbanization, and the impact of these processes on rural communities is bringing about rapid changes in the production/consumption relationship in households. Nonetheless, the household remains a fundamental social unit in all societies. It is also important to note that inter-household networks can have a major impact on the organization of food procurement and food use, and these, too, should be taken into account in the assessment of household variables.