Choosing Health? Exploring Children's Eating Practices at Home and at School
This paper considers the influences on children's eating habits in both school and home spaces in the UK. Since 2002 the UK government has been committed to halting the increase in child obesity rates, and has sanctioned particular parental and school based practices as more “healthy” than others. This study examines this through critically questioning, in particular, the classed discourses written into health education advice and advocates a new way of thinking about health education messages. Based on qualitative research with children from one secondary school and with eight families in the North of England the paper reveals that while parents and children make decisions about their lives with reference to dominant discourses about ideal “healthy” family eating practices, their ability to realise these practices is limited in numerous ways. Moreover, the influences on children's eating habits in both home and school spaces are intricately interrelated and children's practices are clearly influenced by the spaces they inhabit. Their decisions involve balancing health education knowledge with a range of other knowledges that are bound up in the socio-spatial relations of their everyday lives. A holistic approach to understanding children's eating habits therefore requires a critical understanding of class background, parental influences and contemporary parenting practices as well as the microgeographical relations found in the school dining room.