Research Review 


Picture this: A photovoice study


by Stephanie Amos, BSc, RD


Why this article?


In this research article Stephanie Amos, RD explores how international students perceive their food experiences in Canada.  This study is very relevant since international student enrollment is steadily increasing in Canada. Stress related to culture shock as well as lack of access to traditional foods can affect student’s dietary choices, which affects the students emotionally and physically. 

Seven keys themes emerged as the study’s findings: the paradox of Canadian convenience, the equation of traditional foods with health, traditional food quality and accessibility, support networks, food consumption for comfort, ethnic restaurants, and the exploration of non-traditional foods. The participants also held a strong cultural identity to their traditional foods, which influenced their adjustment to Canadian culture.  Due to the strong emotional and cultural connection to food, food acculturation strategies should be incorporated into Canadian universities. There has been limited research on international students’ transition from high school to university and subsequent adjustment to food and dietary patterns in host countries. Studies such as this one can pave the way to a better understanding of students’ perception of food and improve their overall transition and experiences in a new country.



Research Article:

Amos S, Lordly D. (2014) Picture this: A photovoice study. Can J Diet Practice and Research, 75(2), 59–63. 


Type of Study:




International students acculturating to Canada have emotional and physical needs that are strongly associated with food.  



Photovoice methodology was used with 15 international undergraduate university students, who were recruited to take pictures of their food experiences. Also, there were two focus group discussions that included an analysis of the photos.  Pictures and discussions were then grouped into themes.

Key Findings:

There were seven themes found through this study which were related to the significance of food in acculturation:

  • The paradox of Canadian convenience.

  • The equation of traditional foods with health

  • Traditional food quality and accessibility

  • Support networks

  • Food consumption for comfort

  • Ethnic restaurants

  • Exploration of non-traditional foods


Study limitations:

  • Chinese and Saudi Arabian students were represented in the study. The inclusion of students from additional cultures would enrich the data.

  • Language emerged as a barrier.

  • Academic obligations influenced study participation. Therefore, the final focus group session was cancelled.

  • Advocacy interest and contribution from participants was minimal.

  • Findings represent the experiences of international students at one university. Readers in similar settings may not find the results applicable to their own situations.


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