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The importance of eating rice: changing food habits among pregnant Indonesian women during the economic crisis


  • Hartini, T. Ninuk S.
  • Padmawati, R. Siwi
  • Lindholm, Lars
  • Surjono, Achmad
  • Winkvist, Anna


This article presents qualitative and quantitative research findings on food habits of pregnant Indonesian women in relation to the economic crisis that arose in 1997. Between 1996 and 1998, dietary intakes were estimated for 450 pregnant women in Central Java. Between January and June 1999, four focus group discussions, 16 in-depth interviews and four non-participant observations were held with women, two in-depth interviews were held with traditional birth attendants, and four with midwives. Women were categorized as urban or rural, rich or poor, and according to rice field ownership. The women reported that before the crisis they bought more foods and cooked more meals and snacks. During the crisis, cooking methods became simpler and cooking tasty foods was more important than cooking nutritious foods. This involved using plenty of spices and cooking oil, but reducing the use of expensive nutritious foods. The herbal drink jamu was drunk by 15% of pregnant women; its consumption was lower during than before the economic crisis. Twenty-six percent of the women avoided certain foods due to food taboos, and most of these women avoided beneficial foods; this phenomenon decreased during the crisis among the rich and the rural, poor, landless women. In spite of increased prices for rice, women did not decrease their rice consumption during the crisis because rice was believed to have the highest value for survival, to provide strength during pregnancy and delivery, and to be easier to store and cook. Finally, children and husbands had highest priority in being served food, and women were the last to eat.

Suggested Citation

  • Hartini, T. Ninuk S. & Padmawati, R. Siwi & Lindholm, Lars & Surjono, Achmad & Winkvist, Anna, 2005. "The importance of eating rice: changing food habits among pregnant Indonesian women during the economic crisis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 199-210, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:61:y:2005:i:1:p:199-210

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Manderson, Lenore, 1987. "Hot-cold food and medical theories: Overview and introduction," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 329-330, January.
    2. Anderson, E. N., 1987. "Why is humoral medicine so popular?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 331-337, January.
    3. Geissler, P. W. & Prince, R. J. & Levene, M. & Poda, C. & Beckerleg, S. E. & Mutemi, W. & Shulman, C. E., 1999. "Perceptions of soil-eating and anaemia among pregnant women on the Kenyan coast," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 48(8), pages 1069-1079, April.
    4. Laderman, Carol, 1984. "Food ideology and eating behavior: Contributions from Malay studies," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 19(5), pages 547-559, January.
    5. Hartini, T. N. S. & Winkvist, A. & Lindholm, L. & Stenlund, H. & Surjono, A. & Hakimi, M., 2002. "Energy intake during economic crisis depends on initial wealth and access to rice fields: the case of pregnant Indonesian women," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 57-71, July.
    6. Gittelsohn, Joel & Thapa, Meera & Landman, Laura T., 1997. "Cultural factors, caloric intake and micronutrient sufficiency in rural Nepali households," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 44(11), pages 1739-1749, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hadley, Craig & Linzer, Drew A. & Belachew, Tefera & Mariam, Abebe Gebre & Tessema, Fasil & Lindstrom, David, 2011. "Household capacities, vulnerabilities and food insecurity: Shifts in food insecurity in urban and rural Ethiopia during the 2008 food crisis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(10), pages 1534-1542.


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