Unpacking the Lunchbox: the social meanings of food and eating at school

This research comes from Karleigh Huskins' Honours thesis. Karleigh explored the social meaning of school foods and eating at a rural elementary school in Nova Scotia in January 2023 from the perspective of children, mothers, and select school staff. The study used an ethnography approach that included participant observation of children over two days during times food was being consumed, and during a directed art activities about school foods and eating. Interviews with four mothers and three school staff were also conducted. The data reveals that foods and care work are markers of social status and communal mealtimes are sites of status exchange.

While there are clearly class-based distinctions in the lunches families can provide, children find meanings of care regardless of their social class. For them, the meaning of the lunch is negotiated among peer groups and influenced by the commercial food environment, and the organization of mealtime in school - suggesting that children embody their own food habitus at school, and use food as cultural capital in ways that are different from adults.

Karleigh's Honours thesis can be found here.

Here are a few pictures of the artwork children created to demonstrate the foods in their lunchbox.


Dr. Zelda Abramson Award

The Dr. Zelda Abramson Award is presented to a 4th year sociology student who has made contributions to the Acadia, Wolfville, and sociology communities through advocacy, academics, and research. As a 2023 graduate, Karleigh was the recipient of the Dr. Zelda Abramson Award.