Sources of Vegetables
Participants reported that they sourced their traditional vegetables from a variety of outlets that included supermarkets, farmers’ markets and ethnic grocery shops. Nine of the 15 respondents had supermarkets and a farmers’ market in their neighborhood while one participant only had a supermarket in her neighborhood. However, five participants did not have a supermarket or farmers’ market in their neighborhood. Compared to supermarkets and ethnic grocery stores, farmers’ markets were the preferred food outlet in terms of availability and cost by all of the 15 participants.
If you do not go to the Sunday market (farmers’ market) you will not get African vegetables. ID 12
Some of the vegetables are available in the African and Indian shops but they are cheaper and abundant at the Sunday market (farmers’ market). ID 15
Community or home vegetable gardens were identified as an alternative source of African vegetables. Ten of the 15 participants who engaged in vegetable gardening reported that African vegetables were available and accessible at no expense.
I used to buy vegetables (amaranth) but now I do not buy. I harvest from my garden. ID 5
Reasons for Stocking Traditional Vegetables in the Home
Four factors that influenced the availability of vegetables in the participants’ homes were identified: vegetables were perceived to be healthy foods; family preferences; food preparation skills; and the traditional foods were familiar and more filling. All 15 participants reported that vegetables were healthy, hence the reason they were available in their homes. According to these participants, vegetables were fat free and provided the body with important nutrients.
Vegetables are healthy. They have no oil that can give you problems. ID 6
They (vegetables) are healthy. Even when we were in Africa we were told they are good. Like cassava leaves adds blood to the body. Vegetables are good for health. ID 2
Home vegetable availability was influenced by the participant’s preferences. All the participants reported that they preferred their traditional vegetables, and that is why they were available in their homes.
I can not go for 3 days without eating beans. I like to eat beans. Beans, all vegetables. I cook beans and green bananas. I like them a lot. I also eat cassava. ID 10
Five of the participants reported that their spouses’ preferences for the traditional vegetables contributed to the availability of these vegetables in the home.
He (husband) is like me. He does not like fatty foods. We like to cook like Africa. We cook beans and add pumpkins and make stew. We also make beans and cassava stew. ID 7
Children’s preference for traditional vegetables was reported by 11 participants. Cassava leaves were mentioned by 11 participants as the traditional vegetable that their children liked the most. One participant reported that her children liked cassava leaves and amaranth.
My children like sombe (cassava leaves) and lengalenga (amaranth). ID 3
One participant reported that her children had no problem eating the African vegetables when they were in Africa, but that changed when they arrived in Australia. The children now ate small quantities of the African vegetables and developed a preference for other foods found in Australia. She however continues to give them the traditional vegetables.
My children were eating our food in Africa but they do not want it. If you cook chips and chicken they like it. They eat small quantities of sombe and lengalenga. ID 13
Two of the 15 participants reported forcing their children to eat vegetables. These two participants were aware of the nutritional benefits of vegetables and wanted their children to eat vegetables. One of these two participants reported that her child liked meat and she had to force her to eat vegetables. For these two participants their vegetable availability was influenced by their desire to ensure that their children had access to healthy foods.
… She does not like it at all. She does not like the vegetables I cook. She just likes meat, meat, meat. I force her to eat vegetables. I have to sit next to her. She will chew one spoonful for five minutes. ID 14
Traditional vegetables were purchased by all the participants as they were the foods that the participants were accustomed to. Participants reported purchasing these vegetables as they were familiar foods, foods that they were brought up eating, and the foods that their parents ate. They considered these foods a part of their lives.
I can say culture. I buy stuff I used to eat in my country. We are still eating the same food we have not changed our meal style. That is why when I go shopping I focus on what we used to eat, what the kids like or the whole family likes. I am happy as I find all the stuff that I used to buy in my country. ID 1
Other than being familiar, these are the vegetables they know how to prepare. One participant reported that she once bought Brussels sprouts but she threw them away as she did not know how to cook them. Although all the participants had incorporated new foods in their diet, there was a preference for traditional vegetables. One participant reported that these traditional foods were more filling compared to Australian foods.
Respondent: When I eat them (traditional vegetables) I get very satisfied but when I eat the foods from here (shrugs shoulders).
Interviewer: “What foods do not make you satisfied?”
Respondent: Spaghetti (pause). Even rice. When I eat rice I do not get satisfied. But when I cook my beans and its leaves I can eat ‘til I burst. I really like it. ID 11
Problems Encountered in the Food Environment
Problems faced by the participants when sourcing their traditional vegetables were grouped into two categories: language barriers and traveling to other neighborhoods. Four participants reported that they could not read English which made shopping especially in the supermarkets a challenge. Unlike in their home country where they had shopped in open markets, the Australian shops arrange foods in aisles with signs indicating the foods that are available in each aisle. For those who could not read English, this was a problem.
Shops here are different. At home we used to shop in the market. Here things are on the shelves and aisles and it takes long to know where the food is. And you know you cannot ask where things are all the time as you are expected to read. ID 3
Lack of preferred vegetables in the neighborhood food outlets was also a challenge which forced six participants to visit several shops and travel to other neighborhoods. Although one participant reported that a non-petrol convenience shop was available in his neighborhood, it did not sell any traditional foods.
The shop in my neighborhood does not sell African food. They sell wazungu (white people) food, food for people who have been born here. We prefer our food. Like beans, there are no beans there, things like ugali flour, cassava, cassava leaves. So I have to go to (name of neighborhood) and (name of neighborhood). ID 5
Lack of transportation was a challenge identified by six participants that limited their ability to access their preferred food outlets in other neighborhoods. Lack of reliable transport meant that these participants had to use public transport which limited the amount of foods they purchased as well as the food outlets visited. This may also have influenced the availability or at least variety of vegetables in the home.
I am not able to go to the Sunday market (farmers’ market) as it is in (name of neighborhood) and I do not have a car. It is very difficult to travel on the train with food and children. Even when I go with the train, the market is far from the train station. ID 4