Sweets are my 'best friend': belonging, bargains and body-shaming in working class girls' food and health relationships

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


External organisations

  • University of Cork


Research and policy on children’s food consumption commonly highlights the unequal impact of obesogenic environments on their health. Yet obesogenic theories risk pathologising certain communities, when assuming fixed relationships between ‘unhealthy’ environments and ‘obese’ bodies, and neglecting children’s multi-layered relationships to food and health. Drawing on participatory photomapping with 11–12-year-old girls in an urban Irish working-class neighbourhood, this study conceptualises children’s food environments as dynamic, regulatory assemblages which involve multi-layered ‘pushes and pulls’ of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ foods, experiences and norms. Such foods, experiences and norms are related to in a variety of ways in the girls’ negotiation of belonging, bargain-hunting and body-shaming. The analysis challenges fixed, binary, adult-centred, classed and gendered ideas about healthy/unhealthy child bodies, foods and environments. We argue that viewing food environments as assemblages invites ‘obesogenic’ policy and research to inclusively engage children’s dynamic and multi-layered capacities to act, feel and desire around food.

Bibliographic note

Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalChildren's Geographies
Early online date7 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Jun 2021


  • Food environment, assemblage, childhood, obesogenic, participatory photomapping