This PDPE study makes novel contributions to the literature by describing Mexican-origin mothers' perspectives on their daily practices, priorities, and food choices in an integrated manner, which has been missing from nutrition and health literature [2, 4–7, 59]. In doing so, these findings provide valuable context and a conceptual framework for better understanding dietary patterns and food practices of low-income Mexican-origin mothers. For example, this analysis revealed a common belief in Latino cultures "donde come uno comen dos" or ("where one eats two eat")  that has been overlooked in the literature regarding food choice coping strategies among Mexican-origin families , but has implications for food security and nutrition research.
Our general finding that mothers' food practices in particular were influenced by their roles as mothers is supported by related literature about women of Mexican-origin [2–4, 60, 61] and of other ethnocultural backgrounds [21, 62, 63]. Prior work has reported that Mexican-origin and Latina women consider their food-related roles to be an integral part of their identities [2–5], which these data confirmed. The observation that mothers were primarily responsible for ensuring their families' physical, emotional, and spiritual health [3, 6, 64] and "the one in charge" of family food choices [3, 60, 61] has been well-documented by others. Pinto and Coltrane suggested that Mexican immigrant mothers may have more responsibility for domestic activities because they had lower incomes and less education, worked fewer hours, and had more family members at home, when compared to women who had higher incomes . Our finding for mothers living in colonias may not be the case for middle- and upper-class Mexican-origin and Latina women. In any case, mothers' routine activities related to food and health are critical given the prevalence of chronic disease observed in Mexican-origin women [1, 20] and children along the U.S.-Mexican border and nationwide [65–67].
Mothers' food practices highlighted salient values, which were influenced by a primary orientation toward their children and already have been identified as important values in mothers' food choices [5, 68]. However, these mothers went beyond basic nourishment and stressed the importance of preparing homemade foods that would keep their children happy, healthy, and eating well. This particular combination of values may be most noticeable because mothers considered this to be part of their identities as mothers . Specifically, research suggests that providing satisfying food and treating children with made-from-scratch foods may be part of a parental identity among poor Latino families . Also, mothers may have treated their children with made-from-scratch foods as a way to alleviate hardships associated with poverty . A study of Latino families suggested that parents dealing with unrelenting poverty and food insecurity wanted to satisfy their children because it is "an achievable source of gratification," however they mentioned that satisfying children with food can result in parents providing children with "unhealthy foods" .
Results from the current study should be considered in the context of material hardship, including the lack of basic housing, transportation, food insufficiency and food insecurity, and access to health/medical care that is prevalent in many colonias . Specifically, the literature supports our observations of various and persistent stressors (e.g., sociocultural, financial, and environmental) , which mothers attempted to mitigate as they preserve their children's physical and emotional health and well-being. Their family care-giving activities, including food-related, may have been a way to cope with daily stressors attributed to a challenging environment . Unfortunately, there is very little literature that discusses the capacity of low-income Mexican-origin women living in border or other underserved areas, and practices employed in care-giving or food provisioning . Related literature does suggest that low-income women and mothers utilize a range of food choice strategies, or every day practices as observed here, to reduce hardships associated with food insecurity [5, 69, 70]. In a study of diverse Latino families in a relatively small metropolitan area, a Mexican mother explained how she dealt with inadequate benefits with, "where three eat, the fourth can, too" , which was similar to these mothers.
Lastly, this analysis highlighted that the participant-mothers were "reinas de la cocina" (queens of the kitchen), which supports Abarca's description of Mexican-origin women and mothers being "cooks-as-artists" whose efforts kept their children well-fed and eating con gusto (with much enjoyment) . Abarca used the term "cooks-as-artists" to demonstrate how the women/mothers viewed the kitchen as their space (original emphasis retained) to express themselves, demonstrate agency or affirm themselves as mothers and "cooks-as-artists", and to take care of their families . This was supported by González and others who describe a salient characteristic of la mujer Mexicana (the Mexican woman) as one who embodies "the right to claim a space for creating agency and cultural integrity" [71–74]. Related observations have been made by Dean and colleagues who noted that female Hispanic participants did not describe managing food-related responsibilities and constraints as "drudgery", as suggested by other writings on the gendered nature of food provisioning, but as "creative work" .
Given that the participant-mothers lived in communities which are similar to new destination communities, this work provides insights relevant to researchers, practitioners, and policymakers at regional and national levels. This analysis found that Mexican-origin mothers articulated several distinct priorities for their children, which required them to protect their children against continual threats to their physical and emotional health and well-being. There are several implications associated with these findings. First, nutrition per se might not be a critical priority for mothers, but mothers emphasized priorities that were well-suited for encouraging improved eating behaviors. Second, these mothers were primarily responsible for their family's needs for food, medical care, and transportation with limited assistance from spouses. These additional constraints may be detrimental to a mother's health. Although not the focus here, mothers communicated anxiety about "struggling" with material hardship and reconciling what researchers describe as "competing demands" [20, 64]. For example, Anabel mentioned that although her tamale income provided for her children, sometimes she did not have money to buy tortillas for her family. This finding regarding the influence of stressors on the mothers' health is particularly important given that many Mexican-origin women have poor physical and mental health, especially true for many women in border colonias [1, 20, 59]. In addition, mothers may not place a priority on their own health. As Carolina explained, her children were "the most important thing for me. If they are well, I am well." It is possible that mothers do not consider their own health as essential for ensuring their children's health. Third, mothers emphasized the importance of providing foods that their children liked to eat, which posed additional challenges for those working to improve diet and diet-related health outcomes in this population. Fourth, mothers' food practices were guided by the belief that "there is always something to eat." This belief has important implications for those who measure food security and suggests the prevalence of food security in areas like colonias is underestimated . Lastly, mothers demonstrated agency and creativity through their food practices in their pursuit of happy, healthy children in spite of adversity. The resilience observed by this sample of Mexican-origin mothers and documented by others may help better address health disparities in Hispanic subgroups [20, 47, 75–77].
Findings from this project: 1) address methodological limitations in previous work for understanding food-related behaviors among Mexican-origin women, such as interpreting behavior based on a prescribed framework and discounting the participants' perspectives [2, 6] and 2) advance the field by using PDPE to understand food and health practices relevant for mothers' and children's nutrition and overall health [32–34]. Strengths primarily derive from advantages associated with combining participant-driven photo-elicitation (PDPE) with grounded theory, which allowed us to: 1) overcome limitations associated with literacy, cultural barriers, and traditional interviews, 2) produce different type of data, and 3) capture and preserve the context surrounding routine food choices [26, 28, 29, 54, 55]. However, it is worth noting this project was guided by cultural humility, or a respectful and honoring attitude  that seeks to understand "cultural issues intermixed with health issues," and by developing relationships with community members, participants, and promotoras over time . This project benefited tremendously from the promotoras, who were trusted by the participants and valued members of the research team . The quality of data produced in the study spoke to the relationship between the promotoras, the community, and this group of mothers. With this participatory and innovative approach, participant-mothers reflected on their photographs, shared their daily food experiences and affirmed their abilities to sustain and nurture their families through detailed descriptions of daily food practices.
Although this work has many strengths, this study was not without limitations. First, analysis relied on English transcripts only, which is a methodological weakness. Original data were in Spanish, and despite rigorous efforts to preserve equivalence in the English translations, some meaning may have been lost. Future work would benefit from parallel analyses in English and Spanish and discussion of data interpretation amongst researchers. Second, the sample was a relatively small group of mothers living in two disparate areas of Hidalgo County and does not necessarily represent Mexican-origin mothers living in other areas. These mothers may have been "exceptional" mothers who engaged in non-typical food behaviors, such as preparing made-from-scratch meals. Although the promotoras did not advertise the study as being focused on mothering, nutrition, or health, more devoted or health-conscious mothers could have self-selected to participate in the study. Lastly, social desirability may have influenced the participants to want to participant and please the promotoras in their responses; however, having an established relationship with the participants also allowed the promotoras to probe further in the interviews and obtain richer data.