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School Meals and the Rural Idyll: Children’s Engagements with Animals, Plants and Other Nature

Transforming the Rural

ISBN: 978-1-78714-824-6, eISBN: 978-1-78714-823-9

Publication date: 30 June 2017


Like many other countries, a reform of school meals policies has been implemented in Portugal, wherein nutritional and health criteria are considered in the design of the public plate. Given that a large literature on school meals focus on cities seen as sites for promising transformation regarding health, resilience and sustainability, it is pertinent to examine how these policies are being received in rural areas. Similar to other vulnerable regions in southern Europe, rural areas in Portugal have been affected by depopulation, the re-localisation of public services (e.g. schools, health centres and courts of justice) to larger conurbations, a drastic reduction of farming areas and its reconversion from sites of production to sites of consumption that thrive on tourism. While research on children’s attitudes, experiences and practices in rural areas had picked up the attention of social scientists, research on children’s relations and engagements with school meals in these areas does not abound. This chapter addresses three issues: first, how the catering staff and health professionals experience children’s engagements with school meals after the policy reform; second, how the discourses of the school staff and parents around the rural and gastro-idylls contrast with the reported food practices and experiences of everyday life, and third, how the multiple engagements of children with animals, plants and other nature conflict with or are juxtaposed to the images of the rural idyll. Drawing from focus groups material with children aged between 7 and 9 years old living in the rural hinterland of an inland medium-size city in Portugal, focus groups with parents and interviews with stakeholders (e.g. school and kitchen staff, local authorities, nutritionists and catering firms) the chapter aims at contributing to a broader understanding of children lived experiences with food consumption in rural contexts.



Truninger, M. and Horta, A. (2017), "School Meals and the Rural Idyll: Children’s Engagements with Animals, Plants and Other Nature", Transforming the Rural (Research in Rural Sociology and Development, Vol. 24), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 311-330.



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