Background: Low-quality monotonous diets dominated by starchy foods are a major problem confronting resource-constrained settings worldwide including poor households in the urban informal settings of Nairobi, Kenya. This low-quality dietary intake is fueled by socio-economic disparities further complicated by gender hegemonies that influence decision making in food choice and consumption. This places the population, especially women of reproductive age and young children, at a risk of micronutrients deficiencies, such as anemia. Animal-source foods (ASFs) are high-quality nutrient-dense products that supply essential amino-acids, vitamins and minerals, to reduce stunting and micronutrient deficiencies. Previous research showed that the poorest households in Nairobi, Kenya, had low Animal-source foods (ASFs) consumption.
Food security and nutrition dimensions of food security such as the gendered dimensions have been the main focus in most development interventions. However, there still exists gaps especially at the household level that try to understand the association between gender and factors that influence animal-source food dietary intake.
Methods: An exploratory qualitative study was carried out to establish the association between gender and factors that influence animal-source foods dietary intake for households in lower-income urban informal settings of Nairobi, Kenya. We utilized 19 focus group discussions with embedded participatory exercises and 60 in-depth interviews differently for men and women alongside unstructured observations to enable in-depth exploration of ASFs consumption and choice determinants.
Results: Gender and related factors including decision making, power position dynamics of men and women as well as coping mechanisms were seen to influence household ASF dietary intake. Both men and women had a role providing for food budgets and also deciding on when and what ASF would be consumed in their households. Notably, men and women in the informal low-income settings face socio-economic challenges in planning for and sustaining household food needs including ASF.
Conclusion: Nutrition and health interventions and programs tackling malnutrition in lower-income households need to consider the gender and associated factors as identified in this exploratory research. These factors are seen as intersecting with the household economic status and sociocultural practices to influence ASF dietary intake including choice and consumption.