Young girls’ experiences of ‘good’ food imperatives in a working class school community: rethinking food desire?

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Education policy internationally positions schools as central sites of intervention on ‘obesity epidemics’, particularly in working class communities. This article presents a moral geographies approach which examines how such obesity-focused healthy food imperatives are experienced in specific places and times. The authors draw on data from a participatory photo mapping exercise with 11-year-old girls in a working class school setting in Ireland. Rather than focus on the girls’ food consumption through classed, deficit-based discourses of individual restraint or pleasure, they consider their food desires to be an ethico-political force for connection, identification and potential reconstruction of what constitutes ‘good’ food. The participants were adept at performing officially ‘good’ food knowledge, but also constructed food-based identities and relationships that challenged prevailing, individualised imperatives to ‘make healthy choices’. The findings underline the importance of critical pedagogies of food desire, which could engage factors such as the strengths of family and community food cultures.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalCambridge Journal of Education
Issue number00
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2021


  • food education, morality, Participatory photo mapping, critical food pedagogy, school food policy