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The political economy of food in schools : the case of Queensland State education

By Don Sanderson and Cushla Kapitzke


Food in schools is typically understood from a biomedical perspective. At practical, ideational and material levels, whether addressed pedagogically or bureaucratically, food in schools is generally considered from a natural sciences perspective. This perspective manifests as the bioenergetic principle of energy in versus energy out and appears in policy focused on issues such as obesity and physical activity. Despite the considerable literature on the sociology of food and eating, little is understood about food in schools from a sociological perspective. This oversight of one of the most fundamental requirements of the human condition--namely, food--should be of concern for educators. Investigating food through a political economy lens means understanding food in schools as part of broader economic, political, social and cultural conditions. Hence, a political economy of food and schooling is concerned with the formation of ideas about food relative to political, economic, and cultural ideologies in social practice. From a critical sociology study of food messages students receive in the primary school curriculum, this paper reports on some of the official food messages of an Australian state's education policy, as a case to highlight the current political economy of food in Australia. It examines the role of the corporate food industry in the formation of Australian food policy and how that policy created artefacts infused with competing messages. The paper highlights how food and nutrition policy moved from solely a health concern to incorporate an economic dimension and links that shift with the quality of food available in Queensland schools

Year: 2011
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