The current study was designed with the main objective of describing the factors that affect feeding of nursery school children from the mother’s perspective in Usigu Division of Bondo County, Nyanza Province, Kenya. Results presented here demonstrate that lower age, low education level and the mother’s getting engaged in business negatively affected their children’s feeding. In addition, it was demonstrated that majority of mothers within the age range of 15–19 years had most of their children feeding at their grandmothers’ houses. The order in which food was served in the household also affected the eating habits of the children since if they were served first, there was a higher likelihood of them (children) having been fed well.
In the current study, it was observed that the economic activities of the mothers (particularly those who were engaged in business) affected their children’s feeding. For example, children whose mothers were in business could not get food at lunch time because it was during that time that most mothers were out at the market selling their fish. As such, they could not spare time to make food for their children. This observation agrees with the argument of a previous study  that showed that women’s economic activities have an impact on child care, especially if the activity is incompatible with child rearing or where the mother lacks access to another person, who may assume responsibility and take care of the child. This implies that the management of children’s feeding may be significantly affected by the nature of the mother’s employment. Regarding expectations on the mother’s level of educational attainment, it was observed that the higher the education level attained, the higher the likelihood of the mothers effectively being able to manage a good feeding for their children. This was effective despite the fact that the study was conducted in a rural setting in which cultural values related to child rearing are still in place.
In terms of feeding habits, data show that most children took their main meals elsewhere before coming to their mothers’ houses to sleep. The consequence of this was the children not taking a keen interest on taking the food at their mothers’ houses. This practice of allowing children to eat at the extended family members’ houses is usually perceived as a socialization process for the young mothers and their children. Because of the exogamous and virilocal marriage practices among the Luo people, children often grow up in the homes of their paternal grandparents where they share many experiences including food. This supports the arguments by other scholars that one of the effective ways through which grandmothers enhanced their relations with their grandchildren were through sharing food . Given that young mothers in the study area spend part of their time in their mother in-laws’ houses when newly-married, they had no alternative other than allowing their children to eat at their grandmothers’ houses. This in itself could imply to the young mothers, a reduced control over which type of food their children eat, especially when it is served at the grandmother’s house. Since polygamy is also practiced widely in such rural settings, it is not unexpected that children will eat in any of their step-mothers’ houses, a phenomenon which is culturally-accepted and valued. These findings confirm earlier studies which looked at food sharing between grandmothers and grandchildren as an effective way of creating and maintaining social relationships among people of different generations .
In the current study, children were fed based on the available foods. For example, about 70% of the mothers indicated that they fed their children on available foods, 20% fed their children based on their perceived feeding needs while 10% did not respond to the question. This showed a lack of knowledge on the feeding requirements of their children. Mothers who had attained higher levels of education had a higher likelihood of providing the best feeding management for their children. When asked to indicate which foods pre-school children should eat, majority (80%) of the mothers indicated that they did not know while 20% stated that they knew the right food. When the 20% were probed further, only 8% were able to report the correct foods that pre-school children require (i.e. largely protein foods) while 12% said they require carbohydrates. This was worrying since it is a pointer that some of the mothers in such rural settings had very little knowledge on the right food for pre-school children.
In terms of the order of serving food in the household, a low proportion of mothers served their husbands first during meal times. This is contrary to what is usually expected (i.e. in traditional Luo community, most women served their husbands as family heads prior to serving anyone else, probably to symbolize respect for the family head). However, some mothers felt that children should be served first. Reasons provided for serving the children first included the fact that the pre-school children needed more nutrients than anybody else within the family. Some of the respondents stated that: “They feel hungry faster than the rest”. This statement revealed that mothers were aware of the need to feed or give their children more attention or preference during meal time. It also indicated that the respondents had knowledge about the need to feed children constantly as they felt hungry faster than adults. Others correspondents provided other reasons by further stating that: “The child is stubborn during meal times, so to avoid that, I have to give or serve him first”. An additional scrutiny of the responses given by the mothers confirmed that although the children were served first, the food was not given on the basis of the nutritional needs of the child but availability. These findings suggest that the traditional norm of giving men priority in serving meals was quickly shifting to children.