The social and nutritional meaning of food sharing among older rural adults

Sara A. Quandt, Thomas A. Arcury, Ronny A. Bell, Juliana McDonald, Mara Z. Vitolins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


In most societies, the gift of food conveys social meaning, as well as nutritional sustenance. While food sharing has been widely noted, there has been little focused study of this practice among older adults in the US, who, as a group, are considered nutritionally vulnerable. We completed in-depth interviews with 145 adults (African American, European American, and Native American) aged 70+ years in rural North Carolina. Our objectives are (1) to describe the types of food shared by gender and ethnicity, (2) to identify values and meaning elders associate with giving and receiving food, and (3) to discuss the nutritional and social contribution food sharing makes to the lives of these rural elders. All elders participated in food sharing, as givers, recipients, or both. It is valued by these elders as a way to maintain reciprocity in social relations and to create a feeling of community membership. For older adults, receiving food gifts may augment a diet limited by income and functional status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-162
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Aging Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this research was provided by the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG13469).


  • Food sharing
  • Nutrition
  • Rural elders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy


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