Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2021

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Social Work

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Background and significance: Zero Hunger as the second Sustainable Development Goal builds crucial foundation to achieve other sustainable development goals and is a key approach to the Social Work Grand Challenges. In China, there is a huge gap between in nutritional well-being between urban and rural children. Among all the rural Children, ethnic minority children often live in the poverty-stricken regions have parents work away in urban regions. Their nutritional well-being is understudied. Improve the well-being of ethnic minorities children with work-away parents and closing the nutrition gaps of the rural and urban become the key for China to further achieve SDGs. Methods: This dissertation utilized mixed methods to provide an in-depth understanding of environmental factors and care systems around ethnic minority children with work-away parents in resource-poor regions. I started with a focused ethnography using participatory tools and then employed a positive deviance approach to conduct case studies on children who displayed positive behaviors in the community to explore the strategies families with work-away parents could use to strengthen the food security and well-being of children in resource-poor regions. Qualitative data were input into NVivo to conduct thematic analysis. Binary analyses were conducted on the difference of dietary diversity and frequency scores of children of different demographic factors. Results: This study shows that the harsh natural condition, remote geographic location, and, most importantly, the Hukou policies that bind people to this challenging land are the foremost factors that have made upland F township a food insecure zone. Migration is the key strategy families use to accumulate sufficient wealth to eventually move out of food insecure zones and out of poverty. Grandparents utilized all the resources available in the upland regions and saved money for their families. Depending on the family’s socioeconomic status and social network, parents tried to increase the dietary diversity of children through earning extra income and designating adults to purchase food for their families in remote regions. Food-related parenting skills, such as controlling snack intake through controlling pocket money, exposed children to healthier snacks are also crucial in forming the children’s healthy dietary behaviors. Implications and conclusions. To further improve the well-being of marginalized ethnic minority children, the foremost action is to correct unjust migration policies and programs and to support family union and mobility. In the process of achieving large political and economic transformations, distant parenting support programs and old age care should be provided to the families with work-away parents and nutritional programs should be further strengthened in the schools in resource-poor regions.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Carolyn Lesorogol

Committee Members

Geoff Childs, Lora Iannotti, Trish Kohl, Jean Francois Trani,

Included in

Social Work Commons