International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Developing a Conceptual Framework for Understanding Children’s Eating Practices at School

International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Volume 21, issue 3 (2014), pages 275-292

Authors: José A. (Tony) Torralbaa and Barbara Atie Guidallib
Affiliation: aDepartment of Curriculum Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, United States; bODELA, Food Observatory, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

ISSN: 0798-1759


Abstract

Recent calls by the European Union for a broader focus on school food and children’s eating practices have prompted a series of initiatives that seek to understand school meals beyond a traditional nutritional focus. The EU calls specifically identify processes of teaching and learning as central to this new refocusing. In this article, we offer a conceptual framework as a proposal for understanding how children learn to eat in school, and thus we address some of the theoretical and methodological aspects of this recent call. We employ the concepts of ‘foodscapes’ and legitimate peripheral participation as central mechanisms of such framework at the structural and agency levels respectively. Records of eating activity in and out of school, documents and interviews with children and adults across school lunchrooms, school kitchens, and classrooms are employed to demonstrate the applicability of the proposed framework. Preliminary results reveal children may be developing eating practices-in-context, meaning they selectively assess, adjust and develop eating practices according to the particular elements or/and factors existing within a foodscape but employ other foodscapes comparatively to assess their conditions, eating experiences and the food in school. These results are discussed within the context of claims and assumptions that teaching children ‘how to eat’ in school may become an inherent quality of the individual and will ‘transfer’ to other settings or foodscapes.

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