Pedagogies and curricula of everyday food practices : a critical ethnographic approach

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The global corporate food merchandising culture delivers unparalleled food variety and quantity, but one of the major costs of this advance is that it has disconnected consumers from where, how and by whom food is produced. Such a development has made it more challenging to engage people in teaching and learning about the food they buy, prepare and eat in their everyday lives. Indeed, corporate food distributors – especially supermarkets – have come play a key role in this process, exerting a profound influence on people’s food choices and practices. This thesis explores the pedagogic and curricula dimensions of people’s food choices and practices as they are played out in their everyday lives and in their local community. The aim of the study is to identify and analyse the main teaching and learning theories and practices that operate in their food landscapes and how they shape people’s procurement, preparation and eating practices. Using multi-sited critical ethnographic methodology, the study followed twelve participants on their pedagogic and curricula food journeys while planning, shopping, preparing, cooking and eating. The researcher accompanied the participants - all resident in Sydney’s Inner Western region - to supermarkets, farmers’ markets, bin diving, community and backyard gardens, home kitchens, and home lounge rooms where television food programs and those featuring celebrity chefs were shared. Carspecken’s staged analytical model was used to analyse transcribed interviews, field notes and artefacts. The study identified how food consumers learned about food. Supermarket corporations played a hegemonic role, creating and sustaining class-based diets and the cultural dynamics associated with these. Televised food programs, food advertising and celebrity chefs, all sponsored by corporate supermarkets, operated as corporate pedagogues teaching people to purchase the sponsored products they used. As the study’s participants disclosed, however, these pedagogues were not so effective in teaching people how to cook and eat sustainably. Similarly, a wide range of supermarket food products taught participants who were time poor not to cook. However, food education at counter hegemonic sites, such as farmers’ markets and community gardens, sought to empower people with the knowledge and skills they needed to procure, prepare, cook and eat food that would ensure future personal health, underpinned by a socially and environmentally sustainable food curriculum. Yet, as the study found, there was considerable variation in the extent to which participants were able to engage with sustainable food education. Class and ethnicity-based patterns of alignment and non-alignment with sustainable food education were identified in the pedagogies and curricula of counter hegemonic food procurement sites. Inter-generational, home-based food practices, by contrast, were found to be effective in teaching most people sustainable cooking skills and the production of healthy meals.
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