CFP: Special issue of Children & Society 2018

Children’s and teenagers’ food practices in contexts of poverty and inequality

Guest Editors: Wendy Wills (University of Hertfordshire) & Rebecca O’Connell (Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL)

Contemporary concern with food security and nutritional diets indicates that food and eating are particularly important for children and young people. Children’s and young people’s consumption of food is materialised and made manifest in their physical, emotional and mental health, and intersects with self-esteem and body image, both of which become more salient as they mature.

Furthermore, commensality plays a role in establishing and cementing social networks, with food consumption playing a significant role in children’s attempts to connect to, and reject, social relations with others (James, 1997). Food is also an important medium for children’s expression of identity and control and a means of enacting agency and increasing their autonomy as they grow older (O’Connell and Brannen, 2016). Children and young people also make significant contributions to domestic food provisioning, including producing, procuring and preparing food for themselves and their families (Backett-Milburn, Wills et al, 2011).

Yet children’s and young people’s access to food (and other resources) is limited by food availability, family income and their own access to money. Qualitative studies of children’s perspectives of poverty show the damaging effects on them of material disadvantage and social exclusion, as well as the ways that resourceful and resilient young people manage and moderate the effects of poverty (Ridge, 2011). However, not enough is known in the contemporary context of austerity, nor at an international level, about how children and young people negotiate food and eating in contexts of enduring disadvantage. This special issue of Children & Society (2018) will address this gap in knowledge.

Incorporating international, multi-disciplinary papers the special issue will draw together cutting edge research providing empirical and theoretical insights about the lives of children and young people in relation to their food practices and the different contexts and domains in which they are enacted. Papers will examine the implications of poverty and inequality for food access as well as the meanings and uses of food in children’s and young people’s everyday lives, reflecting the symbolic and material nature of their socio-economic position: at home, school, in community settings and the commercial marketplace. Given contemporary concern with the quality of children’s diets and with social inclusion, the special issue will make a scholarly, practice and policy contribution in relation to theories of childhood; children’s everyday lives at home, school and in the community; children’s culture, rights and participation; and children’s health and well-being, in line with the scope of the journal.

Addressing the variability of children’s and young people’s food practices and the contexts in which they are enacted, abstracts of up to 300 words are invited for papers that address the topic of children’s and teenagers’ food practices in contexts of poverty and inequality, including but not limited to the following questions:

How do poverty and inequality mediate children’s and young people’s food practices? What is the relevance of social contexts and social policies and where is responsibility for children’s and young people’s food and eating seen to reside? Which conceptual approaches are helpful in seeking to understand children’s experiences? And what methodological and ethical issues need to be considered in researching and influencing young people’s food practices in the context of poverty and inequality?

Timetable for May 2018 publication


  • Abstract deadline – 30th September 2016
  • Accepted authors notified – 31st October 2106
  • Full papers due – February 2017
  • Papers reviewed Feb – Sept 2017
  • Revised manuscripts – December 2017
  • Special Issue published May 2018

About the Guest Editors

Wendy Wills is Professor of Food and Public Health at the University of Hertfordshire where she works at the interface of social science and public health in relation to food, eating, weight/obesity and health; inequalities and young people are a particular concern and a focus of her research. She has previously guest edited issues of Sociological Research Online[1] and Critical Public Health[2], on the subject of food practices; both these special issues drew on papers submitted to the British Sociological Association ‘Food and Society’ conference in 2010, which Wendy convened.Abstracts and queries should be sent to Wendy Wills or Rebecca O’Connell


Dr Rebecca O’Connell is a Senior Research Officer at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education. She is a Social Anthropologist whose research interests focus on children’s and families’ food practices, poverty and inequality, work-life issues, and research methodology. Rebecca is currently Principal Investigator on a European Research Council funded study of Families and Food in Hard Times in the UK, Portugal and Norway ( She is also co-convenor of the British Sociological Association Food Study Group.