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Anthropology Working Papers Series: “Children’s Foodways in Feast and Famine: Perspectives from Vanuatu ” Dr. Chelsea Wentworth

January 13 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Please join us Monday, January 13 when Dr. Chelsea Wentworth (Michigan State University) will present an Anthropology Working Paper entitled “Children’s Foodways in Feast and Famine: Perspectives from Vanuatu”.

Time: 3:00-4:00pm, Monday January 13, 2020

Location: C103 McDonel Hall

Abstract: How does participation in community feasting events impact children’s foodways in urban and peri-urban areas of the South Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu? Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork beginning in 2010, I describe one growing method urban children use to cope with household food insecurity: eating at lafet (community feasts). The number of lafet, such as weddings, funerals, birthdays, and church celebrations, are increasing in more densely populated urban areas, giving children more opportunities to depend on these feasts for food.  My research illustrates that both women who serve food at feasts and children who attend the feast simply to eat are changing the customary meaning of feasting in urban contexts. Because eating at a lafet is not part of a broader public health campaign, it has been unrecognized by many researchers and aid agencies as an important intervention developed by communities to help support hungry children. Results implicate a significant relationship between the seemingly disparate phenomenon of feasting and food insecurity in urban Vanuatu, which calls for a reexamination of the role of feasting in the study of malnutrition in urban contexts.

About the presenter: Dr. Chelsea Wentworth is a Research Fellow in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University. Dr. Wentworth is a medical and environmental anthropologist and food systems researcher with interests in food security and access, public health nutrition, critical medical anthropology and gender and youth studies. Currently, she is working on the Flint Leverage Points Project, a community-research partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. This research aims to map the food system in Flint to identify leverage points to improve food security and support evidence-based public policy. Additionally, since 2009 Dr. Wentworth has been engaged in long-term research in the South Pacific in Port Vila, Vanuatu working with public health practitioners and families on issues of infant and young child feeding practice, urban gardening and land use change, sustainability, and childhood malnutrition. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh where she also earned a Master of Public Health, and a graduate certificate in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. Previously, she served as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at High Point University, and as a qualitative research consultant for the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.

Dr. Wentworth Lecture Flyer


January 13
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm


McDonel Hall, Room C103


Department of Anthropology