AbstractMalnutrition in children is the consequence of a range of factors, often a combination of inadequate dietary intake and repeated infectious diseases. These factors, in turn, are closely linked to the overall standard of living and whether a population can meet itsbasic needs, such as access to food, housing and health care.The aim of the present study was to evaluate factors assumed to cause malnutrition in a sample poor children from three locations in Jujuy in Northern Argentina.The study was carried out in three locations with different level of urbanization in the province of Jujuy during February and March 2003. The sample consisted of 60 preschool children randomly selected among those brought to community kitchens by caregivers.The children’s dietary intake was assessed through a combination of food record by weighing and dietary recall. A questionnaire-based interview was used to gather data on child care and demographic and socioeconomic factors in the children’s household. To get further information about various aspects of the culture of the informants, interviews with key informants and focus group interviews were conducted. Information about nutritional status and disease history for the sampled children was obtained from localhealth centers.High rates of underweight was found among the children in the sample, and the prevalence was higher in rural than in urban locations. The children in the rural locations consumed more traditional food items than the children in more urban locations but they had also a relatively high consumption of western food items. In the urban location the knowledge of how to prepare traditional food had been lost. The quantity and quality of the dietary intake was inadequate. The children’s diets had little diversity and consisted mainly of soups and starchy food items. There was no difference between mothers with normal weight children and underweight children in regard tomarital status. Also there was no difference in the answers of the mother with underweight and normal weigh children in regard to the question “what do you do if the child refuses to eat?” There was no difference in income among the household in the three places, but the households in the rural locations had more animals, cultivated moreland and sold more traditional handicraft than the households in the urban location. The caregiver’s memory skills, the conceptualization skills of the siblings and intentional distortion were assumed to be the main limitations for an accurate registration of the dietary intake.The inadequate dietary intake combined with frequent illnesses were believed to be the main causes which in the long run have contributed to the high levels of underweight among the children.