Thursday, April 24, 2008

Grandmother hypothesis and slow food

In class yesterday we were discussing how to adjust to eating better food. Upper and middle income individuals can usually afford to sacrifice some income in terms of less hours working and more hours cooking or in terms of spending more on food. However, what about people who are barely getting by in the first place?

The solution touted by most people in government programs. Others favor community groups, but I started thinking about this a different way.

Children don't work, but also don't do well at managing to procure and prepare their own food. But who else doesn't typically work? Grandparents!

Students of evolutionary anthropology may have heard of the grandmother hypothesis. Humans are pretty unique for their long postmenopausal lifespans, which means that human women often live far past their reproductive years. A waste of resources on non-reproducing individuals? No, apparently grandmothers in the past played an important role in helping to raise children.

My grandmother helped out my busy mother with food and in many ethnic communities this is still relatively common. Grandma isn't likely to be part of the workforce, so the opportunity cost of having her go to the farmer's market and cook a healthy meal is low. Unfortunately, it's increasingly common to have grandparents live far away from their grandchildren, either in retirement destinations or nursing homes.

This is a tragedy on several levels. There the lost knowledge of the elders, the loss of family bonds, and increased burdens on the parents.

I would say grandmothers are the missing part of a lot of sociological conundrums, from childhood delinquency to healthy diets.

No comments: