The Swedish School Meal as a Public Meal Collective Thinking, Actions and Meal Patterns

Detta är en avhandling från Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Sammanfattning: The aim of this thesis is to study what role the Swedish school meal has as a public meal in Swedish culture. An additional aim is to study the meal patterns of children, including the school meal.An ethnological questionnaire with 192 informants was used to study people’s perceptions and memories of the school meal. The school meal was seen as part of the Swedish welfare state, but also as a second-class meal, which did not live up to the ideal, which was a meal with the same values as a meal served at home.Observations in school canteens (25 hours), interviews with the school meal staff (six informants) and focus group interviews with children in grade 4-5 (seven groups with a total of 52 children) were carried out at three schools in central Sweden. Firstly, the data was analysed as to how the teachers interacted with the children in relation to the pedagogic meal. The teachers took on three different roles:  “the sociable teacher role”, “the educating teacher role” and “the evasive teacher role”. Secondly, the children’s understanding of food and meals in the school meal context was analysed. The results showed that the children used ideas from the adult world among their peers in the school meal situation. This included the implementation of institutional commensality, the telling of stories about food and the classification of foods in dichotomies.A questionnaire covering the meal patterns of the children and intake of some snack foods was also distributed to the children attending grade 4-5 at the three schools and their parents. Matched pairs (n=147) were analysed for agreement. Most children had a regular meal pattern, and there was general agreement between child and parent reports, except for sweets and chocolate.The expectations on the school meal are high. At the same time, there appears to be a social construction depicting the school meal in a negative way. In order to come to terms with the negative public view of the school meal, the social construction of the school meal needs to be addressed.