Recently published research reveals that familial affection is linked to overserving, and this misguided love leads to overconsumption, wasted food and money.

The study, which is published in the “Journal of Food Products Marketing,” is a joint collaboration between the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, Embrapa, and the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Brazil.

After interviewing and observing 20 caregivers, the findings show mothers in particular enjoy serving large portions of food to express affection to their families. In addition, those who have experienced food insecurity are more likely to overstock their kitchens.

“Caregivers do everything they can to fit the traditional role of a ‘good mother’,” says Gustavo Porpino, lead author of the study.

“They keep the house fully stocked with all kinds of food, provide snacks and treats between meals, and make sure everyone has more than enough on their plates at the table.” Porpino warns, however, that “it’s these same behaviours that lead to wasted food, wasted money, and even to obesity.”

The study, which began in Brazil and expanded to Upstate New York, confirms 25 per cent of lower-middle class families admit to serving snacks as treats or rewards to children.

One mother, who was cited in the study, admits to buying cookies, marshmallows and rice crisps to make treats for her children, “because these are cheap snacks.”

As a result, many family members skip meals, leading to an accumulation of leftovers.

Research shows there are five categories of food waste in lower-middle class families:

  • Excessive purchase
  • Over preparation
  • Caring for a pet
  • Avoidance of leftovers
  • Inappropriate food conservation

Having readily-available food may have positive intentions, but the outcome is negative.

In order to decrease negative consequences, families must recognize that their need to express good caregiving is actually resulting in wasted money and food. Education is needed to teach families how to properly buy, store, prepare and portion food in order to save money, and diminish food waste and obesity.

“By recognizing that resources are wasted as a result of over-preparing food, people may be more open to exploring other ways to show their affection,” says Porpino. “The good intentions are there, all we have to do is work on how they’re expressed!”