What's in that box? : An account of foods in kindergarteners lunchboxes : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Health Psychology at Massey University, Albany campus, New Zealand
Through an ethnographic exploration, this thesis explored the basic process of how
foods have come to be in the lunchbox, to question another aspect of the relationship
people have to food, and how this contributes to what children are eating.
Additionally, two socioeconomic areas were chosen according to their deprivation
levels as a way to further explore how foods may differ according to socioeconomic
status. From these two areas, discourses of children, their parents, and kindergarten
teachers were collected, to gather multiple experiences and first hand accounts of
food-related issues. Furthermore, health promoters from an Auckland based health
organisation were also recruited for this research. Health promoter representatives
captured another perspective of why and what foods go into the lunchbox, which
further illustrated the possibility that the construction of the lunchbox is affected by a
variety of influences.
Multiple qualitative methods were used to uncover the complexity of food issues
among participant groups. These methods included: focus groups with children during
their lunch break, focus groups with teachers at the kindergarten, and a focus group
with the health promoters at their headquarters. Furthermore, interviews took place
with the parents at their home, whilst the lunchboxes were prepared. The main finding
was that there were no significant differences in the content of the children’s
lunchboxes, despite participants being recruited from a low or high socioeconomic
area. Furthermore, two themes of accountability and health emerged in the analysis.
Throughout these themes, the influences of neoliberal agendas were present, as
participants often internalised and individualised responsibility and health issues.
However, at the same time, participant groups were aware of the constraints that
environmental influences had on decision-making. Together these themes revealed
interwoven discourses that exposed a messy set of interrelated food topics. In closing,
this project is unique as it looked specifically at early childhood lunchboxes, which is
a current gap in the literature. This thesis contributed to a growing body of literature
surrounding foods inside the lunchbox.