Insight into the food culture issues surrounding Karen Burmese refugees in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
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For many newcomers to Canada, the resettlement process presents many challenges, obstacles, anxieties and fears. Newcomers must make adjustments regarding their food behaviors as they encounter many barriers surrounding food. The challenges and needs faced by an immigrant differ from those of a refugee, and it is therefore important to study refugees separately. There is a need for more knowledge on perceptions and overall views of refugee families, in order to provide the most efficient services and interventions. Karen Burmese refugees to Saskatchewan have lived in Thai refugee camps for the majority of their lives and were targeted for this study. The purpose was to describe and examine the post-migration dietary patterns and dietary acculturation issues of Karen Burmese newcomer refugees in Saskatoon. This qualitative ethnographic study aimed to 1) identify the issues, barriers and supports surrounding food that Karen Burmese families have faced upon migration to Canada, 2) to explore the adjustments that this group faces regarding their food behaviors, and 3) to explore the services which newcomers receive when resettling in Saskatoon. Data was collected from in-depth interviews with members of the Karen Burmese refugee community (n=14) and service providers (n=6). Participant and onsite observations were also made. Data was analyzed using thematic analysis. Nine themes emerged: 1) Pre-migration lifestyle and living conditions; 2) Resettling in Saskatoon; 3) Karen Burmese culture and lifestyle factors; 4) Post-migration living difficulties, issues and challenges; 5) New experiences with Canadian food culture; 6) Factors influencing food habits; 7) Life in Saskatoon – food issues; 8) Changes in food habits from camp to Canada; and 9) Coping strategies to overcome challenges. A prolonged stay in a refugee camp with limited life experiences and low literacy skills makes this community particularly vulnerable, which influences their overall adjustment and resettlement. Many are still adjusting and adapting to the Canadian lifestyle and eating habits. This study provided insight into the complicated links between food choices, health, and general well-being. Health professionals need to understand these links in order to develop appropriate programs and services. Best practices should involve immediate and inclusive supports followed by integration into the wider community with a strong focus on skill building, leadership, gaining independence, and an emphasis on empowerment and capacity building.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
DepartmentPharmacy and Nutrition
CommitteeVatanparast, Hassan; Henry, Carol
Copyright DateJune 2012