By researching family relationships, scientists are able to establish
more precisely who suffers from an inadequate diet. This was the claim made by new professor Hilde Bras in her inaugural lecture on 4 December. The sociologist succeeds Anke Niehof as professor of the Sociology of Consumption and Households.
Even though there is sufficient food available worldwide, hundreds of millions of people in developing countries still get too little to eat, or a diet that lacks sufficient variety. Bras’s research shows that food shortages and the impact they have vary from one individual to the next. The key factor in this is family relations. Vulnerable groups such as women or children in large families suffer most. The timing of food scarcity is relevant too. The harmful impact of a shortage during the early years lasts a lifetime.
Bras is particularly interested in how an inadequate diet gets handed on from one generation to the next. She refers to a study by Master’s student Kristel van Anrooij in which a link is found between child marriages and poverty. Marrying young is often a result of poverty, but it also leads to poverty and deprivation. It is difficult to break this downward spiral, says Bras. Ultimately, aid organizations need to be able to target vulnerable groups much more specifically. ‘You would then get an intervention which goes into action exactly when the most harm is done by undernutrition, so that you can prevent it being passed on to the next generation.’ Bras is one of the four Wageningen members of the Young Academy, a group for talented young scientists within the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
Photo: Adrie Mouthaan