1st Edition

Food Policy and Practice in Early Childhood Education and Care Children, Practitioners, and Parents in an English Nursery

By Francesca Vaghi Copyright 2024
    188 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is about food and feeding in early childhood education and care, offering an exploration of the intersection of children’s food, education, family intervention, and public health policies.

    The notion of ‘good’ food for children is often communicated as a matter of common sense by policymakers and public health authorities; yet the social, material, and practical aspects of feeding children are far from straightforward. Drawing on a detailed ethnographic study conducted in a London nursery and children’s centre, this book provides a close examination of the practices of childcare practitioners, children, and parents, asking how the universalism of policy and bureaucracy fits with the particularism of feeding and eating in the early years. Looking at the unintended consequences that emerged in the field, such as contradictory public health messaging and arbitrary policy interventions, the book reveals the harmful assumptions about disadvantaged groups that are perpetuated in policy discourse, and challenges the constructs of individual choice and responsibility as main determinants of health. Children’s food practices at the nursery are examined to explore the notion that, whilst for adults it is what children eat that often matters most, to children it is how they eat that is more important. This book contributes to a growing body of literature evidencing how children’s food is a contested domain, in which power relations are continuously negotiated. This raises questions not only on how children can be included in policy beyond a tokenistic involvement but also on what children’s well-being might mean beyond the biomedical sphere.

    The book will particularly appeal to students and scholars in food and health, food policy, childhood studies, and medical anthropology. Policymakers and non-governmental bodies working in the domains of children’s food and early years policies will also find this book of interest.


    Chapter 1. Rethinking responsibility? The state in children’s everyday lives

    Chapter 3. The food industry and its contradictions

    Chapter 4. Feeding children in a childcare setting

    Chapter 5. Children’s eating practices in childcare

    Chapter 6. Food and parenting in the mixed economy of welfare

    Chapter 7. Mothers and foodwork



    Francesca Vaghi is an anthropologist and childhood studies scholar. She holds a PhD in anthropology and sociology from SOAS, University of London, and is currently a Research Associate at the School of Social Work & Social Policy at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland. Francesca’s work seeks to advance critical approaches in public health, specifically looking at how dominant policy discourses (re)create and seek to address 'problems' that have implications for working class and ethnic minority families, particularly in matters related to food insecurity, childhood poverty, and childcare policy.