Food Appraisal: Discussing Healthy Diet and Eating in Elementary Science

Alandeom Oliveira, Ingrid Weiland, Ting-Fang Hsu


Food constitutes an important pedagogical component of elementary science.  Yet, research on how to approach these topics is scarce. The present study attends to this issue by exploring oral food discourse -- whole-class discussions about food and eating led by three elementary teachers while reading children’s science books aloud.  Our discourse analysis revealed varied pedagogical practices.  Treated as “foods of luxury”, sugary food items such as ice cream were appraised negatively by two teachers.  One teacher expressed negative judgment of students’ emotional appreciation of sugary treats on moral grounds.  The second teacher negatively appreciated chocolate products on nutritional grounds (as “bad food” that did not meet one’s calorimetric needs).  Both of these teachers resorted to negative evaluation of taste-based food consumption (i.e., eating for pleasure) while discouraging excessive consumption -- defined quantitatively by the second teacher as an unbalanced calorimetric state wherein energetic input superseded output. The last teacher appraised food culturally.  Attention was given to cultural meanings of pumpkins pervasive in American culture such as jack-o’-lanterns (food for decoration and celebration).   It is argued that elementary teachers need to adopt discursive practices that take into account the complex and often contradictory relationships that children establish with food.


food discourse; healthy eating appraisal; science read-alouds

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