Food, Eating and Inequalities

A broad range of research is carried out by this group, led by Professor Wendy Wills. Funding has been secured from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Food Standards Agency, Food Standards Scotland, NHS Health Scotland and local authorities. The focus is on understanding the social, cultural and economic determinants of food, eating and feeding. We particularly specialise in research on infant feeding; food and drink practices among secondary school aged children and their families; and food security and malnutrition in later life. Our research has informed local initiatives for supporting families and health care professionals in feeding children with Down Syndrome and Tourettes as well as increasing the uptake of free school meals. It has also informed numerous national reports that address the school food environment and hunger and malnutrition among older people. Further details can be found on the University’s public policy pages.


Beyond the School Gate

This major project involving more than 600 young people aimed to investigate the role that socio-economic status and the local food environment play in the food purchasing and consumption practices during the secondary school day. The project’s website has more details of links to reports and publications. Read the Healthy Eating, Healthy Learning policy briefing here

Through the School Gate

This follow up to Beyond the School Gate aimed to explore the role of peer support, sociality and identity in secondary schools in London and Essex. Please contact Professor Wendy Wills for further details.

Food in Later Life

This study, funded by the ESRC and Food Standards Agency investigated how people aged 60 and above acquire food, to examine the challenges faced in later life. We used a social practices approach to ensure we captured the richness of everyday life that surrounds food acquisition. Further details (PDF - 0.38 Mb) can be found on the project’s website. The research led to a briefing for supermarkets about how to support older people to remain food secure and the development of an educational board game, for training and supporting those who work or care for older people. This work has also led to the team, involving Professor Wendy Wills and Dr Angela Dickinson being part of a national Malnutrition group, who instigated a social media campaign to raise awareness of malnutrition among community dwelling older people. Please contact Dr Angela Dickinson for more information.

Domestic Kitchen Practices

This study, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, was groundbreaking in its use of visual research methods to explore everyday kitchen life. It highlighted how the ‘entangled’ and social nature of kitchen practices might influence foodborne illness. For example, ‘cooking’ often also involves, opening packaging, disposing of food, seeing to children or pets whilst in the kitchen or looking for recipes online. The boundaries of kitchen life are therefore blurred and make the 4 Cs (cleaning, cooling, cooking and cross contamination) harder to control.

Feeding and eating issues in Down syndrome

There is limited research about feeding and eating issues in Down syndrome.  Evidence suggests families experience issues with breastfeeding and weaning in the early years, and a greater likelihood of obesity in late childhood and adulthood. However, there is little reported about parental feeding practices, child’s eating behaviours and family support needs. We have carried out two studies, one funded by NIHR CLAHRC East of England, to explore the nature of feeding and eating issues for children with Down syndrome in the early years and the support available for families. For more information, contact Dr Sam Rogers.