Food for Thought
An Appetiser

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An interactive introduction to the symbolic use of food

Food is a central part of our lives. What, where, when and with whom we eat sends out all sorts of social messages. Food may be used to show we care or exercise control. This is what we mean by the symbolic use of food. If we understand the hidden or symbolic meanings we will be able to act accordingly and achieve better outcomes for the children in our care.

This guide offers an introduction to the symbolic use of food in the care looked after children and young people. It is is designed for:

  • Foster carers
  • Residential child care workers
  • Supervisors and managers

The following questions will help you think about the ways in which food and food practices (for example how, where and what we eat) may represent thoughts, feelings and relationships.

By reflecting on these issues you will develop new ways of approaching how you and your children use food in your daily care of each other.

The guide is based on key findings from two research projects undertaken at the University of Stirling. These studies looked at the ways in which children, residential staff and foster carers use food in their everyday lives.

For a more detailed examination of the symbolic uses of food please download The Resource Handbook or visit the Food for Thought project website.

Funded by

ESRC - Economic and Social Research Council


University of Stirling
Aberlour - Scotland's Children's Charity
Foster Care Associates Scotland
Perth and Kinross Council