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Social interactions as support for learning about food: the case of the French school cafeteria

Coralie Damay (Assistant Professor at the Rouen Business School, Rouen, France)
Pascale Ezan (Assistant Professor at NIMEC‐IAE de Rouen and Rouen Business School, Rouen, France)
Mathilde Gollety (Professor at Evry Val d'Essonne University, Evry, France)
Valérie Nicolas‐Hemar (Assistant Professor at ISG Business School – GrIsg, Paris, France)

Young Consumers

ISSN: 1747-3616

Article publication date: 14 June 2011




Research on consumer socialisation emphasises the role played by different agents as well as the influence of the context in which socialisation takes place. As part of the fight against obesity, this study on the nutritional learning of children seeks to focus specifically on social interactions in the standardised context of the school cafeteria in France. It aims to show how and through what social interactions children learn the rules related to food consumption to identify levers by which to promote healthy eating.


The study was conducted in a French school cafeteria among children aged seven to 11. A qualitative methodology was used. It included direct observations of children when selecting and eating their meals and open interviews. A systematic survey of the components of children's food trays completes this work.


This work demonstrated the existence of various types of rules and social interactions. Adults appear to be the guarantors of institutional rules (related to the composition of the plates) and cultural rules (not to waste). Peers were marginally involved in the selection of products. The standards of taste and individual preferences indeed appear to be the background to the choices.


From an academic point of view, the paper supports consumer socialisation studies and emphasizes the importance of a systemic approach to human development. In particular, it enriches the research on food learning by showing how social interactions are involved in compliance with institutional rules and cultural norms.



Damay, C., Ezan, P., Gollety, M. and Nicolas‐Hemar, V. (2011), "Social interactions as support for learning about food: the case of the French school cafeteria", Young Consumers, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 110-120.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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