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Snack time at school

This study focused on snack time in the playground by directly observing the pupils concerned.  Their objective was not just to satisfy a need for energy; the sharing of snacks also provides an opportunity to communicate, exchange and construct links with others.

share his taste. © INRA, Géraldine Comoretto
Updated on 02/11/2016
Published on 11/19/2015

This study, carried out in the context of a thesis project, concerned the conditions under which pupils eat their snacks at school.  The field work was implemented in two schools in the Paris region whose pupils came from contrasting social and cultural backgrounds.  The analysis concerned children in primary schools (aged between six and ten years, or under the French system classes CP to CM2) attending supervised study after lessons.  Their snacks were consumed between 16:340 and 17:00 in the playground.  At that time, the children were under the responsibility of supervisors before returning to their classrooms to complete their homework.

Elective logics and power relationships: giving, receiving and restoring?

The playground space and snack time offer the children an opportunity to share and communicate with their peers.  Once removed from the school bag, their snacks are displayed, compared, shared, exchanged, offered and bartered.  These non-market transactions follow rules and codes governed by group affiliations to which adults have no access.  Occurring out of public sight, they are separated from the nutritional concerns of adults.  Eating a snack in the playground does not simply mean ingesting some food in order to satisfy a need for energy.  Sharing a snack also offers a means to communicate, exchange and construct links with others.

Social inequalities

Snack time may also be indicative of social inequalities between children.  When a snack is not supplied by the local council, the parents will provide according to their financial capacities, frequency, what they have available to them and the dietary preferences of their children, and also according to their perceptions of this snack and what it should offer, according to them and their children.  In the two situations studied, the choice of snack appeared to be a female and above all maternal practice, probably correlated with the distribution of household tasks within the family.

The importance of brands

To the issues of health and a balanced diet should be added the economic parameter.  Different brands and products are not all equivalent.  Children are attracted to brands and products that are "fashionable"; this influences their dietary preferences and impacts the value of transactions in the playground.  All products do not have the same value in this trading market.

Depending on the choices and family contexts, children are therefore not all equal in the playground, notably with respect to their social origins.

Scientific contact(s):

  • Géraldine Comoretto (01 49 59 69 43 ) ALISS UR 1303 - Nutrition and Social Sciences Research - 65 bd de Brandebourg 94205 IVRY-SUR-SEINE CEDEX
Associated Division(s):
Social Sciences, Agriculture and Food, Rural Development and Environment.
Associated Centre(s):

Find out more

  • Géraldine Comoretto, « Le goûter de 16h30 comme symbole du patrimoine alimentaire enfantin ? Analyse des transactions non marchandes dans deux cours de récréation (France) », Anthropology of Food [Online], 9 | 2015, Online since 09 June 2015, connection on 13 November 2015. URL : http://aof.revues.org/7757