The purpose of the paper is to understand the meanings young people give to their food consumption practices in the mealtime interdependencies at home or at school.
The paper uses an interpretive research strategy and adopts a multi‐method approach that includes depth interviews, visual diaries, and participant observations during school and family mealtimes. Informants were young people aged between 13 and 17.
The paper finds a key theme that is emerging in relation to the meanings created with food consumption is the relationship between formal and informal environments for food consumption and between parental and teacher control, and how these are mediated by the media. In response to mealtime interdependencies, informants adopt rebellious and informal everyday mealtime practices such as “eating‐in‐front‐of‐the‐television”, “eating‐at‐any‐time”, and “speed‐eating”. The emergent practices may be interpreted as a form of intergenerational conflict communicated through consumption acts, and ways of negotiating social relationships within social institutions.
The environment of food consumption may affect the uptake of school meals as well as family meals, and this may impact upon young people's dietary choices and behaviour. Additionally, the results indicate that parents (and teachers) learn from children about new ways to maintain family relatedness and love at mealtimes.
The work in this paper explores the realm of food consumption practices as a political arena involving social institutions.
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