Food Roots & Today’s Pantry: The Multiple Meanings of “Thrifty Know-How” among Older African American Women


  • Katherine Lambert-Pennington University of Memphis
  • Lyndsey Pender The Works Incorporated, CDC



foodways, cultural capital, food and aging, limitations of food insecurity measures


In this article we put the themes of gender, agency, food tradition, and time, which are central to the food studies literature into conversation with the research on aging and food security to offer an intersectional analysis of older African-American women’s foodways. In particular, we explore how income, age, gender, and time intertwine to inform older African-American women’s everyday actions and activities related to food provisioning, including shopping, cooking, and eating. Grounding our analysis in a “food tense” perspective, we examine how past experiences shape current food acquisition strategies and preferences, and how seniors’ desires for health and longevity serve as a cornerstone of future foodways. Further, we consider food tradition, food knowledge, and thrifty know-how, as a forms of gendered cultural capital, that generate alternative resources, meanings, and explanations of older women’s foodways. This multidimensional and future inclusive approach to understanding seniors’ food resources not only challenges the point-in-time, income-expenditure, and life course frameworks used in food security research, but provides insights into the complex and fluid factors that shape seniors’ orientation and relationship to food.

Author Biographies

Katherine Lambert-Pennington, University of Memphis

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

Director, School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy

Lyndsey Pender, The Works Incorporated, CDC

Research and Evaluation Specialist


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2020-12-14 — Updated on 2023-04-05