Burning Questions
Fellowship Award Winners

Kristie O’Neill

Location: Canada
Academic field: Sociology
Award category: PhD Holder

Guidance Memo

  • Title: “Living well through food: Examining messages about food in popular Kenyan media”
  • Keywords: Kenya. Meat, vegetarian, and vegan food. Blogs and magazines.
  • DOI: 10.15868/socialsector.37229
  • What We Learned From It:
    • Cultural themes, attitudes, and beliefs about food in today’s Kenyan society are uncovered by analyzing food-related content in three popular blogs and magazines. For example, it is found that lifestyle and nation are strong themes.
    • The Guidance Memo is useful to those who want to support local Kenyan food systems, to stave off the “Westernized” diet and/or nutrition transition, to reduce animal-based food consumption in Kenya. In particular, it helps them to grasp the huge importance of understanding local food cultures and dietary practices, and to use culturally appropriate food messages in their outreach work.
    • To promote desired food habits in Kenya, one can focus on three activities: (i) establish annual vegetarian and/or vegan food festivals; (ii) encourage individuals with culinary talent via awards; (iii) support “restaurant weeks” in urban centers where participating restaurants provide special menus that offer discounts or new recipes.


Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application

  • Among the “burning questions” asked by front-line persons is a key group of questions on reducing consumer demand for animal-based food products. But how, how much, what kinds, and such food are consumed in different parts of the world vary tremendously. There is no single model, intervention, or strategy that can disrupt the current consumption patterns and reduce demands in all places. One has to expend the effort to grapple with each society and culture one at a time. And such efforts applied to a country in Africa is quite rare.
  • The approach taken by the applicant is very practical. Its key objective is to provide concrete strategies and culturally appropriate messages that resonate with local people so advocates can take advantage of the recent upsurge in food festivals, food blogs and magazines in Kenya to promote local, plant-based food.
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