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Sydney joins University of Edinburgh on lunch box study

6 October 2016

Researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of Edinburgh Business Schools are part of a collaborative global project on family life that will compare attitudes to school lunch boxes around the world.

Associate Professor Teresa Davis from University of Sydney Business School and Professor David Marshall from the University of Edinburgh Business School are contributing to an international project that tracks the changing representation of family life in popular culture over recent decades.

Both researchers are involved in the Discursive Families Network, a group that examines how social values and popular beliefs about family life have been shaped over time. The network is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and also includes academics from Monash, Oxford and Lancaster.

Their next joint project proposal, led by the University of London (Royal Holloway), will look at parents' attitudes towards school lunch boxes around the world, and the debate over what should and shouldn’t be included in them. The research will involve interviews with parents and children in England, Scotland, India and Australia about the negotiations that take place in their homes.

“There’s a big debate going on in the UK about the merits of packed lunches, with a push towards a policy that would make it mandatory for children to eat school meals,” says Professor Davis.

“Our study will look at what the effect of this increasingly prescriptive environment on families, particularly on mothers. It’s a very contentious issue, with conflict between children and parents and between parents and schools.”

The issue has erupted in several parts of the world, including Australia, and in Canada a parent was fined $10 for not including grains in her child’s lunch box.

They have also worked on the representation of fathers in advertising, saying that there are still strong undertones of the father-as-breadwinner in advertising representations. Professor Marshall adds: “There are lots of ways to be a dad and if advertising could capture some of that diversity I think it would be a positive thing.”

Professor Davis and Professor Marshall have worked together for more than ten years and share common interests in advertising, consumer behaviour and marketing, particularly as it relates to the food industry and children.

“The best thing about strong international collaborations is that you bounce ideas off each other, and one paper can lead to a grant proposal so there’s a multiplicative effect,” says Professor Davis.

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