"Do You Pay for Your Lunch?" Eating the School Lunch at the Margins: An Extreme Case Study
Filippo Oncini (University of Trento)
Paper short abstract:
This paper is based on the fieldwork conducted during break and lunch in a school located in a poor neighbourhood of Palermo. I explore what happens to food education guidelines when they are applied in problematic classroom and encounter children coming from severely deprived households.
Paper long abstract:
In this ethnography I show that when the unquestioned assumptions regarding the role of pedagogy and childhood itself fall apart, food education is emptied of its original meaning: teachers' food rules, when applied, repeatedly target the same children. Recess and lunch, far from being didactic experiences or convivial breaks, are mainly moments of tension between teachers and the most problematic children. Focusing on a second graders section, I explore what happens to food education guidelines when they are applied in a problematic classroom and encounter children coming from severely deprived households. First, I outline the methods and the context of the study, briefly describing the neighbourhood and the school. Second, I focus on the second graders' recess and lunch, to show how food 'dos and don'ts' are seldom envisioned with a food literacy objective by teachers. During the recess, the arbitrary rules on food and table manners are used to highlight the transgression, but not to teach healthy eating. Similarly, teachers' efforts during lunchtime are solely devoted to keeping children fed and seated, while trying to get to the end of lunch as soon as possible. Teachers' reprimands during recess and lunch always target the most turbulent children, either to prevent or to stop them from violent fights. The food itself is not a matter of concern for anyone, since violent episodes between children monopolize the attention of all the adults nearby. I conclude by reflecting on the limits and capabilities of nutrition education programs applied in such contexts.
Ethnographies of food inclusion and exclusion [Anthropology of Food Network]