Healthy food chains: Does healthy for me mean healthy for others?

MHM Conversations


On 5 October 2021 at 18:00, the Facebook account of Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine is hosting the fourth event in the MHM Conversations series, entitled ‘Healthy food chains: Does healthy for me mean healthy for others?’. Social anthropologists Anna Žabicka and Agnese Bankovska and researcher for the BIOR Institute, licensed nutritionist Inese Siksne will discuss food supply chains in Latvia and their social, economic and environmental impact on the health of people and the environment. 

If you type the phrase ‘healthy food’ in Google search, the suggested content seems quite removed from the actual life experience of countless people: appealing arrangements of multicoloured fruit, dishes with names that many of us have never heard before, and expensive organic produce. Does healthy eating mean exclusively organic food? How hard or easy is it to eat healthy food and is healthy food always compatible with the different financial circumstances and lifestyle of different people? What are the nutritional habits of people in Latvia and what are the factors that have shaped and influenced them? How knowledgeable really are we regarding what we eat and the impact these habits have both on ourselves and the environment?

This time, the conversation will revolve around eating habits, healthy nutrition myths and various social, economic and cultural factors that inform and shape people’s nutritional practice and experience. We will talk about the role that food plays in building relationships with other people and the environment, as well as about the environmental and social footprint of our specific food choices. We will discuss with our guests the food supply chains practiced by people in Latvia and the reasons why they are significant, with a view on potentially forming food chains that consume less of our financial means and the planet’s resources alike. 

About the contributors

Anna Žabicka is a social anthropologist who is currently writing her PhD thesis on aging and care in the Latvian countryside, basing it on a long-term ethnographic research carried out in a small Latvian countryside care home. Anna is specialising in medical anthropology: her principal academic focus is on the subjects of aging, care, health and social inequity, death and kinship. A holder of two MA degrees in social anthropology from Wayne State University (USA, 2019) and Riga Stradiņš University (2014), Anna Žabicka is currently studying toward a doctoral degree at the University of Vienna and teaching anthropology of medicine, death and kinship at Riga Stradiņš University.

Inese Siksna has been a researcher for the BIOR Institute of Food Safety, Animal Health and Environment for over 10 years. She is an active member of the Latvian Association of Dietitians and Nutritionists, contributing to improvement of knowledge and skills of nutrition experts. In her research work, Inese is excited about various ways of using traditional methods to obtain data on food consumption and other health-related issues.

Agnese Bankovska is a social anthropologist who counts ethics and practice of care, multispecies ethnography, food supply systems and food experience as the range of her professional interests. Agnese’s PhD work, presented in late 2020 at the University of Helsinki (Helsingin Yliopisto), studied the direct purchase movement in Latvia with a special focus on the significance of the ethics and practice of care in the context of such a relatively small system of food supply. Alongside these subjects, Agnese Bankovska has contributed to an international and interdisciplinary study of transnational families in Finland, researching experiences of belonging, identity and inequity as reflected in the food practices of Latvian-Finnish families.

The MHM series of conversations is centred around discussions on the notion of health. Our health is a multi-layered and variable experience that is influenced by a number of factors, not always medical ones. In our conversations we will explore subjects like health inequity and inequality, stigmatisation of diseases and the influence of the urban environment and loneliness on our health. As part of the series, joined by experts of medical and social sciences and medical professionals, we will address subjects like health inequity in Latvia; the place of narcotic substance users in the society and their access to healthcare; the influence of urban environment on health behaviour, nutrition and food chains, as well as loneliness, sexual health and sexuality. 

The MHM conversation series is supported by Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

Live stream of the event can be accessed on the MHM Facebook account here.

Plate for serving. Made in the M.S.Kuzņecovs porcelain and faience factory in Riga. 1920s.


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