Food and eating practices during the transition from school to new social contexts
This paper examines how the new social contexts experienced by young people after leaving school are related to everyday food practices and eating habits. Findings from indepth interviews with 31 young people aged 16 - 24 years studying at a college of further education in South East England are used to explore the role of new social spaces and places and their impact on young people’s eating habits and routines. Young people’s changing peer groups were related to the re-negotiation of food and eating practices and young people often adopted particular habits when with particular groups of peers. The consumption of alcohol, and feelings about appetite, weight and appearance, were sources of anxiety for some young people, who often felt alone and different to their peers. Young people often voiced a desire to differentiate from the food ethos present in their family home and this was sometimes related to the adoption of a vegetarian diet; some young people, however, reported being nostalgic for the ‘family food’ they ate before making the transition from school. This study shows that food and eating practices are not ordinary, mundane events in young people’s lives, but an important part of dealing with the transition to new social contexts.