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Food scarcity, not economic constraint limits consumption in a rural Aboriginal community


  • Brooke A. Scelza BS, MEd, MA, PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA
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Brooke A. Scelza, UCLA Department of Anthropology, 341 Haines Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA. Email:


Objective:  To determine whether food scarcity or economic constraint is more strongly associated with purchasing patterns in a rural Aboriginal community.

Design:  Store receipts were collected to determine money spent in the community shop across a four-month period from January to April 2006. Variability in expenditures is then studied using measures of food scarcity (days since shop loading) and economic constraint (days since payday).

Setting:  Parnngurr Outstation in the Western Desert of Australia.

Main outcome measures:  Daily gross and per-household gross expenditures at the community shop.

Results:  There is a significant association between food scarcity and money spent in the shop (−42.89, confidence interval −62.62 to −23.18, P < 0.001). There is no association between economic constraint and money spent in the shop.

Conclusion:  In rural and remote communities, reliable access to food is critical to food security. Circumstantial constraints such as seasonal flooding and political insecurity can augment food access problems and put Aboriginal people at risk of malnutrition and other dietary harms.