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It just makes me feel empty




Speaker: Dr Rebecca O’Connell (UCL)

School food in the lives of young people in 45 low-income families in England

The Department of Sociology in the The School of Arts and Social Sciences welcomes Dr Rebecca O’Connell as part of its 2017-18 Research Seminar Series.


For more than a century the UK government has provided free school meals (FSM) to children whose education might otherwise suffer. Today, school meals are a particular priority for children’s health and social inclusion, especially for the nearly 4 million children living in poverty. However research suggests that young people are not benefiting fully from free school meals because of issues of eligibility, adequacy and delivery. Preliminary findings from our qualitative research with 45 young people aged 11-15 and their parents in low income households in two disadvantaged areas in England add to this evidence.

Drawing on family case studies and young people’s accounts we explore how some children had positive experiences while others reported going hungry, social exclusion, stigma and shame. Our discussion considers how national and school policies may better protect children’s health and social participation and reflects upon the wider relationship between state, family and the role of food in children’s lives.

The findings are part of a wider study of Families and Food in Hard Times (2014-2019) that is examining how social contexts and social positionings mediate the extent and experience of food poverty in three European countries.

About the speaker

Rebecca O’Connell is a Reader in the Sociology of Food and Families at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education. She is co-author, with Julia Brannen, of Food, Families and Work (2016) and Principal Investigator of a European Research Council-funded study of Families and Food in Hard Times.

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When and where

2.30pm - 4.00pmWednesday 28th March 2018

C307 Tait Building City, University of London Northampton Square London EC1V 0HB United Kingdom