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SUMMARY OF METHODS OF A FIELD; WORK CLASS COOPERATING WITH THE COMMITTEE ON FOOD HABITS OF THE NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL HORTENSE POWDERMABER Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Queens College The work of a small group of seniors taking a course on "Methods of Field Work" in the department of Anthropology and Sociology at Queens College has been integrated in an interesting manner with the program of the Committee on Flood Habits of the National Research Council. In the first semester of the Field Work Course, the various techniques and problems of field work are presented and training is given the students in choosing a problem, testing hypotheses, making schedules, sampling, techniques of inter- viewing, tlie writing up of interviews, and other related problems. The first . · · 1 1 · ~ · 1 1 , 1 _ , 1 ~ ~ ~ practice IS usually in making a small Study on the campus, using students and staff as respondents. In the second semester the class does a field study in the larger community of Queens of which the students are residents. The course represents an attempt to correlate theory and practice in undergraduate work. It is of interest that seniors can do interesting and usable research while they are getting their training. When the Committee on Food Habits of the National Research Council asked us to do a study on changes and problems of food habits caused by the war, it was easy to direct the work to this field. We had the advantage of having done a study the year before ~ ~940-4~ ~ in a housing project of Queens where contacts had been made and a considerable amount of sociological data obtained, and it was decided to make the food study there. The project con- tained 3,ooo families of a uniformly low income group, but of difl Brent ethnic and religious backgrounds. First, a number of preliminary planning conferences were held, attended by the instructor of nutrition classes at the Community Center of the Houses and representatives of the Community Center, the Council of Social Welfare, the Health Department of the Borough of Queens. the New York Housing Authoritv. the Committee on Food Habits. ~ , <A ,, ~ and Queens (college. The Health Department formally sponsored the study and the work was done under their auspices. They were particularly inter- ested in all our data related to nutrition problems. The services of the com- mun~ty were further enlisted through a Girl Scout troop which distributed food pamphlets for us. In addition to the community cooperation and interest, the morale and interest of the students in the field work class were heightened because they were working on a problem related to the war and because they knew their research was being used. Indirectly, and in addition to the research train- ~ng, the work was thus of some value in giving a group of students still on the campus some orientation and a role of helpfulness in the war effort. Considerable time was spent in the classroom on the formulation of the 95
96 The Problem of. Cha~gi;'g Food Habits problem and hypotheses. We had three control groups leased on interest and exposure to nutrition data. Group One consisted of people attending nutri- tion classes; Group Trio received a government pamphlet related to food and the war every trio weeks; Group Three had no organized contact with food propaganda beyond what they got of their own accord through newspapers and radio. The first schedule was planned to determine the attitudes toward the relationship of food to winning the war, whether the people knew there was a relationship, and if so, what it was; their attitudes toward hoarding; and what, if any, changes they expected to make in their food habits. The second schedule divas planned to find what actual changes in food habits were occurring. The behavior studied centered around the planning of meals, the preparation of food, use of white, dark, and enriched bread, and the use of irradiated and canned milk. The third schedule consisted of two parts, first, to determine the reaction and attitudes to the sugar rationing which had just taken place, and second, to recheck on the question in the first schedule concerning the general relationship of food and winning the war and the changes people expected to make. In all three schedules we were able to correlate our data with the nutritional knowledge and interest of the respon- dents. Each member of the sample alas visited three times (and occasionally oftener) and we were thus able to get changes in a very dynamic situation as they were happening. The data from the interviews was discussed in class as it came in and new points of view- and hypotheses there added to old ones. The problems of interviewing were also discussed in class as they occurred and likewise in conferences with individual students. In addition to the study just indicated we were able also to meet several sud- den requests from the Committee on :Food Habits. One was for data on atti- tudes to soy products. A brief study was done (not in the housing project) on the degree to which people had used soy products, their association with them, and their willingness to use them. In this study we had a sample of 4~8 people taken at random. Another was to do a quick study on pre-testing two different phrasings of the question, "Which foods do you think are important for us to have (to keep up morale) (to keep our spirits up) ?" The study now in process Egos Spring term) is a continuation of the study of attitudes toward rationing, this time, of course, toward a much snore extensive rationing system. In addition, we attempt also to get at attitudes to sending food abroad to our allies and to occupied countries, and to obtain further data on reactions to and attitudes toward the nutrition classes held at the housing project. In this study we correlate attitudes to rationing and sending food abroad with the degree of participation in war effort, with ethnic background, and with age group. Thus, during two years, two field work classes composed of senior under- graduate students have been able to make a study of attitudes and behavior related to food and the war in a rapidly changing situation and to catch some of the resulting changes in attitude as they were occurring. The plan of con- sistent interviewing over a period of time in the same setting, (the housing project in this case) allows us to catch a dynamic war situation and to study attitudes in else process of change.