Ditchin’ the Cafeteria: The Culture of Eating Lunch Out for High School Students

Authors

  • Lisa Clark

Keywords:

youth culture, qualitative research, identity, consumption, space and place, social capital

Abstract

Studies involving young people and food consumption have focused predominately on the “barriers” to accessing “good” food and its effect on health and/or the poor food choices of young people. Although relevant to young people’s lives, they tend to ignore the broader social, cultural, symbolic, and emotional roles involved in eating practices. 

This research explores these broader sociocultural influences on food choice among high school students, and takes an ethnographic and exploratory research approach in order to examine the everyday food encounters of two high school students. A total of 2 participants aged 16 and 17 from separate high schools in the East Toronto area took part in this study. This research provides a unique insight into the ways in which these participants construct and mediate identity through food. Data was collected based on the accounts retrieved through an audio-recorded focus group session with the two participants. Additional data was collected through anonymous survey results, participant observation insights, and a scholarly literature review. The analysis found that three patterns emerge; space/place, social relationships, and social mobility.

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