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Young people's school food styles : Naughty or nice?


Annechen Bahr Bugge Young 2010 18: 223 DOI: 10.1177/110330881001800206 The online version of this article can be found at: http://you.sagepub.com/content/18/2/223

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ARTICLE

Young
Nordic Journal of Youth Research

Copyright 2010 SAGE Publications (Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC) www.sagepublications.com Vol 18(2): 223243 10.1177/110330881001800206

Young peoples school food styles


Naughty or nice?
ANNECHEN BAHR BUGGE National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), Norway

Abstract This article is based on a study of young Norwegians school food habits. The article describes what and how young people eat during the school day. Furthermore, we look at the beliefs and values that inuence young peoples food choices and practices. Considering the attention given to young peoples food habits in the Norwegian public debate, there are surprisingly few studies that have mapped the socio-cultural aspects of young peoples food culture. This sociological study explores how young people negotiate and interpret foodcultural structures and relations, including the way in which young peoples food-cultural identity is inuenced by variables such as gender, ethnicity, place of living and social class. The purpose is to provide some new perspectives on young peoples relationship to food. More knowledge about these aspects will be important, both in the provision of suitable school food services and in the development of strategies for preventive health work among young people. Keywords agency, food, gender, health, identity, Norway, school, social class

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Young 18:2 (2010): 223243 Leading parts and extras. I think children and young people have too few chances of being heard. There are too few places where we can speak our minds and be heard! (...). The world has become, or perhaps has always been, a place where the adults play the leading parts. We are the extras.1 Teenage girl

Like in many other countries, school food has been a central issue in the Norwegian public debate in recent years.2 Many interested parties have participated in the debate from top politicians, nutrition experts and civil servants to the Ombudsman for children, teachers, journalists, chefs and action groups. Several issues have been discussed: What should school food consist of? Should it be hot or cold? Who is responsible for school food the government or parents? Is it okay to contract out school food to commercial businesses? Is the quality of the school milk and school fruit schemes good enough? What has been missing in this debate is the voice of the young people themselves. What beliefs and practices characterize young peoples choice of food and drinks during school hours? How satised or dissatised are they with their school food? What do they want to change? If we look more closely at how young people and food are portrayed by politicians, researchers and opinion leaders, they are typically described as troublesome and rebellious. One example of this is the following front page in Norways biggest newspaper: Norwegian children and young people are fat and lazy.3 This claim was based on the fact that children and young people exercise less than before, and eat more unhealthy food. To what extent do such claims square with empirical data? Is it true that young people generally eat unhealthy food? And is it true that young people do not care about what they eat or drink? Considering the widespread concern over young peoples food consumption, relatively few studies have been done to map the socio-cultural aspects of young peoples food and eating habits (Andrews, 1996; Liukko, 1996; Sylow, 2005). The Norwegian studies that have been conducted on food and eating among teenagers mainly have a nutritional or medical perspective (verby and Andersen, 2002). A sociological study will therefore be an important contribution towards understanding why young people eat as they do. It will also be important in order to develop pedagogical measures that target this group. In this study I have been inuenced by the British youth sociologist Steven Miles (2000) perspectives and analytical concepts. In his opinion one unfortunate aspect of much youth research is that it to a too large extent focuses on the abnormal/deviant and the marginal. Miles believes that this perspective has contributed to the stigmatization of young people as rebellious, deviant and marginalized. Miles studies show that the majority of British youth are not deviants in sub-cultural groups, nor do they identify with them. The same results are found in several Norwegian studies (Bakken, 1998; Krange and ia, 2005; Kvalem and Wichstrm, 2007; Rossow, 2003; Strandbu and Bakken, 2007). However, young peoples food and eating habits are not discussed in any of these studies.

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In this article I therefore explore the role of food and eating habits in the construction of young peoples relationship to society: Is the food-cultural identity they live out a reaction against the hegemonic food culture in society, or is it rather a reection of it. My assumption is that it is both. Like Kirsten Drotner (1993) I believe that one should study such complex phenomena from a dual perspective. Young peoples food culture is far too multi-faceted to be just one or the other. In the following I will take a closer look at how young people negotiate and interpret food-cultural structures and relations, with a special emphasis on what and how they eat during the school day. This exploration will be done through the lens of the categories of gender, place of residence, ethnicity and class. The aim of this approach is to present some new perspectives on young peoples relationship to food.

YOUTH THEORY AND FOOD CULTURE


There is extensive international research on youth culture today. Much springs from the empirical studies from the so-called Birmingham school. In later years, however, several culture theoreticians have criticized this school for focusing too much on marginal sub-cultures. Furthermore, this line of research has been criticized for not allowing the voice of the young themselves to be sufciently heard in their studies (Cohen, 1997; Miles, 2000; Widdicombie, 1995; Widdicombie and Woot, 1990; Williamson, 1997). I am inuenced by Miles (2000) sociological study of lifestyles among young Britons. What I nd particularly valuable in his study is precisely his focus on the experiences, expressions and values of the young themselves. Furthermore, I think his perspective contributes towards moderating the view of the young as rebellious and egocentric. Thus, inspired by Miles (2000) I will discuss how young peoples school food styles can be regarded as a reection of, a reaction to and an interaction with structural inuences from the hegemonic adult food culture: Reection: This process concerns how young people are socialized into a food culture. Parents, teachers and society in general constantly confront youth with judgements on what is the right food style. How is this reected in young peoples school food? Reaction: This process concerns young peoples rebellion against the hegemonic food style. How is this expressed in young peoples food and eating practices during the school day? Interaction: This process concerns how young people interact with the hegemonic food culture. Change is a key word in this connection. How have young peoples food-cultural attitudes and practices changed in later years? Which preferences and practices characterize the strong actors in the peer environment?
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As the terminology shows, there are power structures and relations, but in Miless (2000) view it is more interesting to analyze how young people negotiate and interpret these structures and relations. Our food-cultural identity is inuenced by a range of conditions gender, age, social class and place of living (Caplan, 1997). How is this expressed in young peoples school food style? What roles one chooses or does not choose really play as a symbol of social and cultural belonging among young people for instance, what and how young girls and boys eat in the course of their school hours?

METHODS AND MATERIALS


The empirical material consists of both qualitative and quantitative data. Indepth interviews with 40 young girls and boys were conducted. These teenagers were recruited from secondary schools in four different settings: a rural district, a small town, a big city and a suburb. Another criterion in the choice of schools was that they had a relatively heterogeneous group of pupils in terms of variables such as class and ethnicity. The aim of this selection was to get the widest possible understanding of beliefs, values and practices relating to food and eating habits among Norwegian youth. All were interviewed individually during the school day. I also conducted non-participatory observations at the four schools. Among other things, observations were conducted during lunch breaks and classroom discussions on the topic of young people and food. Furthermore, 60 text assignments were collected, in addition to picture documentation from 16 disposable cameras where food and eating situations were documented. I have also been an eager reader of websites, forums, blogs and so on for young people. The data analysis programme Atlas.ti was used in preparing the text analysis. My qualitative analyses are based on a much broader material than what the reader has direct access to. The selected quotations in this article primarily serve as illustrations. However, an important criterion in the selection process was that the quotations should reect the most important ndings in the study. The project also includes quantitative data from the surveys on Norwegian Eating Habits (19972008) (N = 3909). These are comprehensive surveys that map Norwegian food and eating habits every second year. The surveys do not map details of young peoples school food habits. I therefore designed a separate survey that covered aspects of young peoples eating and drinking habits during the school day (N = 595). The data analyses consist of simple statistics such as frequency distribution and cross tables. This was done with the help of the data program SPSS.

THE NORWEGIAN SCHOOL MEAL BEFORE AND NOW


Whereas Swedes and Finns eat a hot lunch, in Denmark and Norway a cold lunch is most common (Gronow and Jskelinen, 2001). However, the cold

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lunch is not an ancient Norwegian tradition, but rather a result of an active reform of interwar school food habits. Until the 1930s it was common to have porridge and gruel for lunch in Norway. The head of Oslos school health authority, professor Carl Schitz, was critical of this eating habit: What is certain is that the art of cooking has long ago reached a point where it overwhelms us (Schitz, 1926). Schitz believed that it was necessary to replace the cooked food by a more breakfast-like meal: The Oslo breakfast. The warm school food was therefore replaced with whole meal bread, raw vegetables, fruit and milk. According to Schitz this reform would ensure both cultural and nutritional gains (Lyng, 1998). In 1963 the Sigdal breakfast was introduced in Oslo. This was a home made school meal: packed lunch. In addition, raw vegetables, fruit and milk would be served. There is no doubt that Schitz succeeded in his reform of the Norwegian lunch meal. Bread is the dominant ingredient in a Norwegian lunch. Half the Norwegian population eats home made packed lunches once a week or more (Bugge et al., 2008). The packed lunch is often described as a special Norwegian tradition.4 For instance, in the Norwegian Farmers Unions webpage, we can read that: Eating packed lunch is a tradition in Norway. Everybody needs a good break and a proper meal during the school day. When you eat your packed lunch the body gets an important replenishment.5 In Norways best selling cookbook (Hovig, 1982) we nd similar statements: Here in Norway we often eat 24 bread meals and a warm meal (dinner) during a day. This is a habit that our nutritional scientists believe that we should preserve. According to Montanari (2006) what we perceive as food culture is something that occurs where tradition and innovation meet. Whereas tradition is shaped by knowledge, techniques and values that have been transferred from earlier generations; innovation will mostly be modied versions of these techniques and values that contribute to the experience of a new reality for the individual. Montanari denes a tradition as a very successful innovation. The packed lunch could thus be regarded as one such successful innovation. Although the packed lunch may be a successful innovation, in recent years it has been the target of continuous attacks. Several key gures have argued that it should be replaced with a hot school meal. In this context references are typically made to Swedish and Finnish school food habits. The current debate thus contrasts sharply with the school food debate in the interwar years, when the warm porridge meal was to be replaced with bread, fruit and vegetables.

THE REFLECTIVE FOOD STYLE


The packed lunch thus has an important position in Norwegian food culture. The fact that it is important is also apparent in the way the term is exemplied in the Norwegian Dictionary (1997): Bring your packed lunch! This kind of admonition also appeared in the empirical material. A big city boy said the
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following: It is almost a scandal if you forget your packed lunch! And when I come home my mum and step-father ask if I have forgotten my lunch, and its like they scold me if Ive forgotten. One of the city girls said something similar: I have a packed lunch, but my big brother, he just buys a baguette. Then my parents say Why cant you bring a packed lunch sometimes? There are clear rules for what is to be perceived as proper and improper packed lunch. What parents choose to give the children to take to school may create tensions between parents and between parents and the school. Some parents are annoyed when other parents send their children off to school with white bread, chocolate spread, cakes, pizza or noodles. The same is true for the school. One example of this is the following message from a note from a headmaster to the parents: We have observed that several pupils eat noodles during lunch hour and that constantly fewer bring packed lunches from home. The school administration is, from a nutritional perspective, worried about this development. We encourage parents to take particular care to ensure that children bring a packed lunch to school (Bugge and Dving, 2000: 107). However, the survey showed that bringing a packed lunch to school was most common among young people. As many as 69 per cent brought lunch almost every day. A rural boy puts it like this: Its something I bring every day. I have done that since rst grade. One of his classmates said it like this: I have a packed lunch every day except on Fridays. Then I get money to go to the cafeteria or to the store. As far as the contents of the packed lunch are concerned, noodles, pizza, wafes or things like that are not particularly widespread. Instead the gures showed that bread was the dominant content of the packed lunch (88 per cent). Many also had fruit and vegetables. Few had, for example, brought sweet bakery products like buns, cake, wafes or pancakes (2 per cent) or pizza (1 per cent) in their packed lunch on the previous school day. This also corresponds with a survey of the bread and grain habits of Norwegians (Bugge et al., 2008). The typical description of the contents of the packed lunch was like this city girls answer to the question of what she used to put in her packed lunch: Its just bread with cheese and ham and perhaps peppers. Or as one of the city boys said: Slices of bread and fruit and stuff. There were also clear notions about what kinds of bread spread was suitable cheese, ham and salami were considered proper, whereas chocolate spread was considered improper. Cheese and ham were most widespread, but there were also some who had chocolate spread in their previous packed lunch. According to a rural boy: Chocolate spread is the only thing that doesnt become sweaty and nasty. However, there is no doubt that young people have internalized the notion of chocolate spread as unsuitable. When asked what they considered poor food, several pupils answered chocolate spread and the like. Frequently, those who had this kind of spread emphasized that they only had it now and then. One city girl put it like this:

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Bahr Bugge Young peoples school food styles I often have ham or cheese or sometimes chocolate spread, but Im not allowed to have that in my packed lunch. Interviewer: Why not? Girl: My mother wont let me, because there is so much sugar in it.

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Even if many young make their own packed lunch, they were not free to choose what it could contain. Generally, it was evident that the packed lunch was perceived as revealing of ones food habits some packed lunches were easier to take out in public than others. It was fairly common to leave the preparation of a packed lunch to the children when they start comprehensive school: 71 per cent answered that they had made their packed lunch themselves on the previous school day. There is, however, little evidence that this increased freedom contributed to any large extent to changes in the contents of the packed lunch. More than half the young people drank tap water with their packed lunch on the previous school day. Few had had sugary sodas. It was also surprising that very few drank the milk served in school. The typical answers to questions concerning school milk were of the kind: I stopped drinking school milk when I started comprehensive school; I have bad experiences with school milk very often it was kind of lukewarm milk. When asked what they drank, I had answers such as the following: I have water, I have a bottle which I ll, we have dispenser in the corridor and so on. The fact that bottled water has become an important identity marker was evident in several ways. One example is the many photos of girls and boys drinking water. The photos had often titles such as water is healthy, happy girls drinking water, healthy girls drinking water and so on. Water bottles were also prominent among the observed youths and in particular, among girls. It was common for girls to walk around the school area with a bottle of water in their hand. Many had a bottle of water on their desks, too. The interviews revealed that these bottles generally contained tap water. A town boy puts it like this: Its madness to spend money on something you get for free from the tap. And one of the suburban boys put it like this: No, I nd it meaningless to pay for water. Young people seem to be more concerned with low price when buying food and drinks than adults are (Bugge and Lavik, 2007). Considering the many negative descriptions of the packed lunch in the Norwegian public space in later years, the meal was surprisingly popular among young people. More than half said that the packed lunch they had on the previous school day had tasted good. The popularity of the packed lunch was further conrmed when young peoples attitudes towards the packed lunch were examined. According to the young it was cheap, healthy and it was regarded as a good habit. It was usually eaten too. Few felt that the packed lunch was nasty and unappetizing. Moreover, few said that they ate it just because their parents wanted them to.

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The qualitative material shows the same tendencies. A rural boy gave the following answer when asked what he thought of packed lunches: I think it is a good thing. Like many others he pointed out that the packed lunch was both cheap and healthy: When you have the chance to get free food, it is just as well. And then I know that a packed lunch is usually healthier than what you get in the store or the kind of food you get in the cafeteria. A rural boy puts it like this: as long as I can get food from home, I prefer that. Its free. Nobody was more outspoken on the nutritional value of the packed lunch than one of the suburban boys. When asked why he chose to take a packed lunch to school, he answered: Its kind of like slow carbohydrates. The packed lunch was also described as a good habit. A small town girl puts it like this: It is something I just have to have at school, otherwise I dont feel good. A rural girl said: I have always brought a packed lunch and its good to have a packed lunch at school and a big city boy replied that: I like the packed lunch! As shown above, the healthy school food style is dominant in todays youth group. A packed lunch was the most common school meal. That was something most of them had regularly and it was usually eaten, too. As many as seven in 10 even thought that the packed lunch they had had on the previous school day had tasted good. Even if young people to a large extent reected the hegemonic food-cultural values, there were, however, also several examples of young people challenging these values in the course of a school day.

THE REACTIVE FOOD STYLE


The vast majority had access to several stores and eating venues in the schools immediate proximity everything from grocery stores, cafs, kiosk, fast-food places and gas stations to another schools cafeteria. Even though many had access to kiosks, petrol stations, fast-food places and convenience stores, these outlets were not much used by young people during school hours. Only a minority said that they had bought their school food at such outlets on the previous school day (14 per cent). The most frequently used outlets were grocery stores and another schools cafeteria. Seven out of 10 brought packed lunches to school every day or almost every day. In comparison, three out of 10 bought their food at commercial stores and eating venues outside of the school area equally often. For most, buying school food was something they did a couple of times in a week or a couple of times in a month. Only a few said that they never bought school food in stores, kiosks and so on. Boys bought school food in such outlets more often than girls. The most common thing to buy was bread with lling. Then followed sweets, buns, yoghurt, bread without lling and sweet pastry. Some also bought fruit, vegetables and salads. Few had bought fast-food, like hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza or kebab. Whereas the most widespread packed lunch drink was water, the most common bought drink was sugary soda. There was also a relatively

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large share who had bought chocolate milk, ice tea and juice. However, there were also some who had bought bottled water. Whereas the packed lunch generally reects the dominant food-cultural codes and values reectional style store and kiosk food were typical examples of the rebellious, alternative, cool and forbidden a reactive style. When I asked one of the small town boys what he regarded as unhealthy food, he answered characteristically:
That grocery store stuff. Its not that good, really. Good food is more like vegetables and healthy stuff. Interviewer: When you say grocery store food they sell healthy things in the stores too, dont they! Boy: Yeah, they do, but thats not what we usually buy there, really. We buy more like buns and stuff.

Even though those who bought their school food in stores and eating venues near their school were much fewer than those who brought packed lunches, there is no doubt that the freedom to buy ones own food and drinks was an important part of young peoples identity construction. One of the rural boys put it like this: Those tough guys go to the store, and then the not quite so tough boys want to go there, too. To buy ones school meals in the grocery store was overall a typical strategy for distancing oneself from the role as primary school pupil. A suburban girl expressed it like this: Many would say that now in comprehensive school packed lunch and stuff like that is something you brought when you were little. Far more boys than girls bought buns. Observations of lunch breaks at the different schools showed that the boys buns were much more than cheap, practical and convenient school food. The buns also had a number of social and emotional meanings within the boys group. Whereas the girls often walked around with an apple in one hand and a water bottle in the other, buns and bun bags were signicant in the interaction between the boys. Bun bags were used both as sledgehammers and icebreakers in the form of friendly nudging and shoving. Furthermore, buns were used as a unit of exchange handed out to the chosen and received in exchange and as toys. At the small town school, for instance, I observed boys who threw buns back and forth. After the lunch break two of the boys even came to the class room with bun bag hats. Buns also seemed to be an important distancing mechanism: Now Im no longer mummys little boy with a packed lunch. And lastly it should be pointed out that they are also eminently suited as a mark of rebellion: I choose fat and sugar over bre and lean. It was evident that young people had a rather ambivalent relationship to buying their school food in stores. On the one hand they like the freedom to leave the school area. A small town boy puts it like this: I stopped bringing packed lunches in the 9th grade, because then we were allowed to go to the store. On the other hand it was also perceived as an expensive and unhealthy
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practice. When asked what she thought was the unhealthiest aspect of her own food style, one of the suburban girls answered: It must be the food I buy at school. Like many others she felt that it was better to bring a packed lunch than to buy school food. She gave the following explanation: Firstly, I dont have to spend money on food. And secondly, when Im in the store you easily end up buying lots of candy and soda. As Mine Sylows study (2005) of young people, food and sports halls and the material shows, the purchased food was an important strategy that young people employed to distance themselves from adult food and eating habits. The typical purchased food commonly included food which their parents would not have wanted them to eat and which, for many, did not overlap with what their parents gave them. Several of the young mentioned precisely food, vegetables and other healthy food as typical examples of home food. Such food they had both from their parents and at school.

THE INTERACTIVE FOOD STYLE


It is not without reason that the Socialist Left Party6 advanced school food and school meals as one of their most important campaign issues in the 2005 electoral campaign. As shown in the introduction, what children and the young eat at school has for decades been considered an important topic. This can be linked to the fact that when young peoples food and eating habits are not in line with the dominant cultural values and codes, the entire national identity is in many ways threatened (Drotner, 1993). However, my material clearly shows that in practice this was not a particularly prioritized area among school management and teachers. In connection with a critical article on the existing school milk arrangement one headmaster was quoted saying: Headmaster NN does not want to comment on the case, since the school is not responsible for the milk offered.7 One suburban boy described the school managements involvement in the school food offer as follows: The pupils are not really responsible, but the inspector, but he does not care much if it is healthy. The material clearly shows that what the cafeteria offers is out of pace with the pupils own preferences. On the young peoples debate pages in one of Norways biggest newspapers one cafeteria was described like this:
When you go to the cafeteria on a regular school day, there is only unhealthy food there. Wouldnt it be better with some healthy food thats good for you? Some fruit would really have done the trick in the cafeteria. And they should sell some healthy drinks too. They sell something called Boboli instead. The cafeteria also sells large mufns with big chunks of chocolate. If you want to lose weight youll get nowhere if you eat the food that they sell in the cafeteria.

This kind of description was also common in the interviews. A rural girl described the cafeteria like this: There arent many healthy things there. We tried with one of those salad bars, but it didnt work. I also want more fruit. A rural

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boy puts it like this: Theres nothing healthy in the cafeteria. Its mostly ice tea, ice cream and buns. I dont care for that. However, there were also some who were satised with their cafeteria. A suburban boy puts it like this: In the cafeteria you get those baguettes with a lot of lling; vegetables and ham and stuff. And then we can buy hamburgers and pizza and soup and lots of different stuff. All in all the material indicates that those who were most health conscious also were the most critical of the food that was sold in the cafeteria. Most of the children had access to a cafeteria that sold food. Many also had access to water dispensers and hot drinks. In recent years there has been great interest in removing soda vending machines from Norwegian schools. Still, a relatively large share had access to soda machines at their school. Of those who had access to a cafeteria, six out of 10 used it regularly. Furthermore, ve out of 10 used the schools water dispenser. One out of 10 regularly used the schools soda machine. There were signicant gender differences with regard to these services too. More girls than boys used the cafeteria regularly. However, the greatest gender differences emerged in the data on the use of various drinking facilities at school. Far more girls than boys used the schools water dispenser. However, far more boys than girls used the schools soda machines. Three out of 10 of those who regularly used the cafeteria bought food and/or drinks three times per week or more. The most common was to buy food in the cafeteria one or two times per week. The data showed that more girls than boys used the cafeteria regularly. However, the boys who used the cafeteria regularly bought food and/or drinks there more often than the girls. Two out of 10 of those who had a cafeteria that served food at school were quite or very dissatised. A similar number said that they were neither satised nor dissatised. The dissatised were then asked what changes they would want. More than half said they wanted healthier foods and drinks in the cafeteria. Many wanted a greater variety of fruit and vegetables, too (55 per cent). By comparison only 14 per cent wanted more hamburgers and pizza. There were also far more who wanted cereals, sandwich stations and prepared sandwiches than those who wanted hot meals. And few wanted more buns, wafes and cakes in the cafeteria. The fact that a healthier and cheaper cafeteria service was important emerged in a number of ways. When the interviews were conducted, the rural school was about to reopen its cafeteria after reconstruction. Many of the pupils were therefore excited about the changes they wanted when the new cafeteria opened. A boy said the following about the improvements he wanted: I suppose it would be possible to sell healthier food. When asked if there had not been healthy food in the cafeteria before, he answered: I dont think french fries and buns is the road to health. Several of his fellow pupils gave similar descriptions. A girl puts it like this: I wish they could sell healthier food in the cafeteria. Now its like chocolate milk and yoghurt. That yoghurt isnt healthy because its full of sugar. Another girl expressed like this: The cafeteria food was quite unhealthy. It was all like white bread rolls, but now were changing to dark bread and more low fat products...ice tea without sugar and such.
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It should also be pointed out that the young people were ambivalent about replacing the cold Norwegian bread meal with a hot school meal. This must be seen in relation to the experiences many of them had with hot institutional meals in kindergartens and after school care. Some of the pupils had also lived temporarily in countries with hot school meals, for example, Sweden, England and USA. The typical ingredient in todays warm institutional meal is fatty minced meat or meat products, pizza and various types of semi-manufactures. As a boy puts it: Sure, hot meals are tempting, but if its junk stuff thats been heated in a microwave, Id rather have a sandwich. If the lling is nice, bread is quite good. A girl puts it like this: It would be nice to have hot meals at school, but I want it to be healthy because otherwise I wont eat. Because then I dont feel so good afterwards. Generally, the descriptions show that young people were quite sceptical of the nutritional quality of hot institutional meals. Based on the data on the changes that young people want, there is evidence that the polarized debate on hot or cold school meals is a sidetrack. Current school food structures may have room for improvement, but there is little evidence that young people want what Carl Schitz (1926) described as a total reorganization of school meals. The material also shows that school food is an important issue for young people. This was evident in several of the attitudinal statements that the young people were asked to consider in the survey. Only a small minority agreed with the statement I dont think anything is particularly important when it comes to school food I just eat it. On the contrary, very many were concerned that the school food should be tasty, healthy and cheap. As can be seen above, it is evident that young people to different degrees will adapt to the dominant food-cultural ideals. Even if there are some who actively try to challenge the valued (school) food style, the data show that young peoples food-cultural values and attitudes are quite concurrent with the hegemonic food culture. Young people are increasingly concerned with a healthy diet. More and more young people are also sceptical of foods and drinks that are high in fat and sugar. In recent years we have seen that the consumption of fruit, vegetables, white meat and fatty sh has increased considerably among young people. At the same time the consumption of sugary sodas has decreased markedly.

SCHOOL FOOD STYLE AND FOOD-CULTURAL IDENTITY


As mentioned, there are surprisingly few studies that have investigated the role of food and eating habits as symbols of social and cultural belonging among youth (Andrews, 1996; Sylow, 2005; Wessln, 2000). Youth culture research generally focuses on the themes like clothes, music, lm, dance and spare-time activities. As I will show, choices in food and drinks during the school day will also contribute towards positioning the young in the social landscape (Caplan, 1997). How, then, is this expressed? How, for instance, do girls eat compared

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to boys? How are social class differences expressed in young peoples school food? And how is the school food style affected by the meeting of different food cultures for instance, the Pakistani and the Norwegian?

Gender
Several Norwegian studies show that womens and mens food styles are rather different (Bugge and Dving, 2000; Bugge and Lavik, 2007; Bugge et al., 2008; Roos and Wandel, 2005). These kinds of differences also emerge in the school food styles of teenage girls and boys. There were signicant differences between girls and boys when it came to the contents of packed lunches. Far more girls than boys had brought fruit for lunch. The same tendencies emerged with regard to vegetables. There were also far more girls who had brought yoghurt. There were also quite signicant differences between what girls and boys bought when they bought school food. Almost twice as many boys as girls had bought buns the last time they bought school food. The same tendencies appeared with regard to other types of sweet pastry. There were also more boys than girls who had bought different types of fast-food dishes. More girls than boys had bought fruit the last time they bought school food. Furthermore, far more girls than boys had bought yoghurt and salad. There were also slightly more girls who had bought prepared baguettes and sandwiches. That these differences were linked to gender notions of identity was evident for instance in the way young people themselves categorized food. Both in the interview and the picture material the young operated with the categories girls food and boys food. Some of the boys commented that girls are such lettuceeaters. One small town girl put it like this: The girls bring proper packed lunches, but the boys, they buy buns and chocolate and stuff. An older city girl said: In my class there are many boys who buy food, I think. And they often buy like soda and chocolate, but maybe they need it more than us girls. One of the suburban boys said the following when asked about girls and boys food style: I think there are a lot of girls who try to lose weight in this school. Theyre like: Oh, Im dead hungry and then all they eat during a school day is one of those little yoghurts. One of the rural girls had the following answer to the question whether people used to comment on her packed lunch: Its that I always bring so little. I only bring a piece of crisp bread, but thats enough for me! Thus, it is not only the contents that differed between girls and boys, but also size. Whereas the girls often had one or two slices of bread, the boys lunches were far more comprehensive. It was evident that a large packed lunch was regarded as slightly macho. A rural boy puts it like this: I have a friend and hes worse than me with his lunch. Hes the packed lunch man! He brings quite a decent portion, you know, but its not like hes overweight. A decent portion meant 56 slices of bread. With a big packed lunch one went from being mummys little boy with a packed lunch to becoming the packed lunch man.

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Consequently, there are clear notions of what kinds of food and the amount of food that is suitable for girls and boys. It was evident that the girls choice of salads and crisp bread to a large extent can be associated with what Angela McRobbie (1993) describes as aestheticizing eating practice. A town girl puts it like this: Girls think an awful lot about how they are not thin enough. Overall, there is little doubt that the slim and healthy body is the desirable ideal among young people today (Strandbu and Bakken, 2007). As one of the young people put it: its the slim girls who are popular (Maurer and Sobal, 1995; Sobal, 1999; Strandbu and Bakken, 2007; Williams and Germov, 1999). A rebellious school food style was far more characteristic of boys than girls. The fact that boys have a more rebellious lifestyle than girls also ts with results from other youth studies. One feature that emerges is indeed that boys to a greater extent than girls seem to be stuck in inappropriate roles, activities and interest proles. This makes boys more vulnerable and less competitive than girls in many contexts. According to Willy Pedersen (1996) boys from working class backgrounds are particularly exposed to such phenomena.

Social class
Several studies have shown that Norwegian food and eating habits are characterized by distinctions that can be related to Pierre Bourdieus (1984) work on how food contributes to producing, reproducing and negotiating class identities and cultures (Bugge and Alms, 2006; Bugge and Dving, 2000; Bugge and Lavik, 2007). In line with ndings in studies of adult Norwegians, young people with middle-class backgrounds seem to be most concerned with eating healthily and health consciously. This is apparent, for instance, in a debate letter from a young girl.
Society with an eating disorder. (...) Where I live, in... (one of the most afuent areas of Norway), there is a particularly strong focus. Nobody can eat their packed lunch without some comment on the fat content. In the family, being slim is important if you are to be seen as successful. (...). Where I live people sit in class and add up the number of calories they consume, which theyre more than sufciently aware of already.8

This girl lived in an area that is frequently described as preppy. No one was more critical of fat and sugar than these middle-class youth. Nor was there in their opinion anything that tasted better at school than dark bread, fruit and water. Several studies have shown that wealthier and better educated people make better nutritional choices than people with lower income and education (Bourdieu, 1984; Bugge, 2006; Bugge and Lavik, 2007; Crotty, 1999; Tomlinson and Warde, 1993). The same differences are also evident among young people. One example is the way this lawyers son describes his school food habits: I could be healthier, but there are many who are much less healthy than me. They eat things like buns, cheap food and those First Price triple cracker packs and such nonsense. I never do that!

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The materials clearly show that middle-class youth have internalized their parents food-cultural values and orientations. Their school food style also has legitimacy in the peer group. Pat Crotty (1999) described how upper-class people often expressed prejudices with lower social class food behaviour. This was also evident among the so-called preppies.

Ethnicity
There have been relatively few social science studies of food and eating habits in connection with migration (Chernin, 1986; Bradby, 1997; KocktrkRunefors, 1990; Wandel et al., 2007). That was not a topic for this study either. Since a lot of the youth who participated in the qualitative part had immigrant backgrounds, this nonetheless became a topic which emerged in the material.9 In particular the in-depth interviews with immigrant girls proved important for an understanding of youth, food and migration. From their stories it was evident that to eat Norwegian food, acquire Norwegian eating habits and to lose weight were more or less conscious strategies many of them used to become integrated in the Norwegian society. Similar results can be found in other studies, too (Bradby, 1997; Chernin, 1986; Kocktrk-Runefors, 1990; Wandel et al., 2007). Like a study of young Glaswegian women of Punjabi descent (Bradby, 1997), my material, too, showed that immigrant girls typically categorized food as your food and our food. The health value of food was particularly important in the girls evaluation of food as good or bad. This aspect was for instance expressed as follows by one of the Pakistani girls: Mom often makes food with ingredients from our own country. That is very unhealthy. I cant say anything, but I like Norwegian food better such as vegetable soup, spaghetti and sh ngers and things like that. This statement was one of many examples of how the interviewed immigrant girls criticized what they described as fatty Indian and Pakistani food. It was also evident that they had adopted the Norwegian breakfast and lunch habits: bread, cereals, packed lunch, fruit and vegetables were typical examples of what they chose to have for these meals. An American study showed that female immigrants from Central America quickly internalized what John Germov and Lauren Williams (1999) described as the Western female ideal (Chernin, 1986). The same pattern also emerged from my material. As mentioned, the water bottle has become an important symbol among todays youth. It was evident that some of the girls used water in order to lose weight. One of them was a town girl of Pakistani heritage. She had moved to Norway a couple of years before the interview was conducted. After she came to Norway she lost eight kilos. Hira started the interview with the following statement: I drink a lot of water! She was very pleased that she had managed to lose a couple of pounds. She explained her success like this:
I think it is because I drink a lot. I drink maybe one or two litres or so every day. Interviewer: What does your mother think about that? Hira: Sometimes she says that I am very thin and need to put on some weight.

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She was then asked if the other immigrant girls were as preoccupied with their bodies and dieting as she was. She answered: Everybody!

Area of residence
A number of studies have shown that food and eating habits among people in Oslo differ in signicant ways from the rest of the country (Bugge, 2006; Bugge and Lavik, 2007; Bugge et al., 2008). Generally there was little difference between the various parts of the country in terms of the kind of food pupils ate during the school hours. The exceptions were fruit and drinks. Signicantly more teenagers in Oslo than in the rest of the country had bought fruit the last time they shopped. Young people in Mid-Norway bought the least fruit. The data also showed that there were considerable geographical differences with regard to young peoples drinking habits. The share of young people in Oslo who had bought sugary sodas was much smaller than in other parts of the country. The share who had bought such drinks was largest among young people in Northern Norway. Young people in Oslo had a higher consumption of drinks like ice tea, juice and carbonated bottled water than young people in other parts of the country. With regard to the changes that young people wanted in their school food services, it should be mentioned that youths in Oslo differed from youths in the rest of the country. Factors like health and food that is low in fat, calories and sugar were more important to young people in Oslo. What appeals to youths in Oslo is a good indication of how food and drinking patterns will develop in the years to come. New food-cultural trends and tendencies have always begun in Oslo and subsequently spread to the rest of the country (Bugge, 2006). When young people in Oslo choose the healthy (school) food style, this is an indication of how school food habits will develop in the next couple of years.

CONCLUSIONS
Despite the many socio-cultural aspects of food and eating habits, this issue has received very little attention in youth research. Studies of young peoples everyday life usually deal with clothes, lms, music, games and so on. However, as this article shows, food and drinks are also important symbols of social and cultural belonging in young peoples lives. Through their choice and rejection of school food and drinks young people position themselves in the social foodscape. As Miles study of the lifestyle of young Britons this study of young Norwegians food styles, too, shows that young people to a large extent reect the hegemonic food-cultural values. Miles concludes that young people today are most concerned with getting a good education and a good job. Similar ndings emerge in Norwegian youth studies (Strandbu and Bakken, 2007; ia, 1998). This properness is also evident in young peoples food style water, packed

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lunch and an apple simply work better than Cola, hamburgers and snacks among young people today. A dominant trend among young people in the last decade has been a signicantly growing concern with eating healthy. This change must be seen in relation to the general emphasis on mastery and control of the body in society at large (Featherstone et al., 1994; Giddens, 1991; Lupton, 1996; McRobbie, 1993; Williams and Germov, 1999). With regard to the many negative descriptions of the Norwegian school meal in the public debate, the results that emerged were quite surprising. Even though most young people had access to both cafeterias, stores and kiosks, the packed lunch was the predominant meal. A surprisingly large share of young people had a positive attitude towards the packed lunch. In general, it was evident that the packed lunch was in tune with the food-cultural spirit among young people it was cheap, healthy and a good habit. Bottled water and cola were particularly important identity markers among todays teenage girls and boys. While water may be characterized as a fashionable drink, coke has increasingly had a more problematic status. Consumption statistics testify to that. In recent years there has been a signicant increase in the consumption of tap water and bottled water. At the same time there has been a signicant reduction in the consumption of sugary sodas. Approval and recognition are important drivers for young people (Miles, 2000). When the strong actors in the peer group support the hegemonic foodcultural values and orientations the healthy most young people will feel that it is difcult to break with conformity. It is safer to follow the style that most people follow and that nobody criticizes. Like in several other youth studies, my data show that there is relatively little tolerance of within-group deviance (Miles, 2000; ia, 1998). This was particularly evident in the descriptions of fellow students with an unhealthy school food style. One of the groups that many described in negative terms were the cola drinking and bun eating girls and boys. This group was a typical example of the others those with whom the majority did not want to be associated. Their food style was also associated with a generally bad lifestyle and bad interests. Another group that was criticized was fellow students who were overweight or fat. The healthy and slim were ranked highest on the youths popularity scale. The fact that the value of a healthy and slim body has escalated among young people is also supported by ndings in other Norwegian youth studies. For instance, one study showed that in the last decade there has been a change in what teenagers perceive as particularly attractive and desirable. In the 1990s the good students were ranked highest in the status hierarchy. In the mid 2000s active sports youth were ranked highest (Strandbu and Bakken, 2007). Furthermore, the data showed that an unhealthy school food style was more characteristic of boys than girls. The fact that boys have a more rebellious lifestyle than girls ts with results from other studies (Bakken, 1998; Krange and ia, 2005; Pedersen, 1996; ia, 1998). The food-cultural rebels are often described as the tough boys. In a study of different student roles in junior high school these boys were described as the macho boys (Lyng, 2004). What characterized
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these boys was precisely that they were tough, naughty and provocative. The materials indicate that their school food had the same characteristics. Instead of packed lunch they had white bread rolls lled with chunks of chocolate, buns or hamburgers. Water was replaced with Cola. Fruit and vegetables were replaced with potato crisps and large chocolates. They knew perfectly well that this was both wrong and unhealthy, but they did not care. Nevertheless, it was clear that their taste for the sinful and unhealthy was meaningful: it was cool and independent. My material also indicates that young peoples food style is dependent on their social class positions. No one was more critical of the rebellious food style than young people with middle-class backgrounds (Bugge and Alms, 2006; Bugge and Dving, 2000; Bugge and Lavik, 2007). Several studies show that groups with higher socio-economic status have a healthier diet than those with a lower socio-economic status (Crotty, 1999; Tomlinson and Warde, 1993; Wandel, 1997). According to Crotty (1999), there is a tendency that wealthier and better educated people make better nutritional choices than people with lower socio-economic status. Oslo youth were most concerned with a healthy diet. Even though Oslo youth generally had more access to soda machines and kiosks than young people in the rest of the country, no one drank less sugary sodas during the school day than young people in Oslo. They also had a considerably higher consumption of fruit and vegetables. Nor was there anyone who described candy, sugary sodas and fast-food in more negative terms than young Oslo people. Since time immemorial food trends have started in Oslo and slowly spread across the country (Bugge, 2006). When Oslo youth choose the healthy school food style, this is an indication of where developments are headed in the next couple of years. Although there are differences between various social group preferences and practices, there is little doubt that the prominent school food style among young Norwegians largely reects hegemonic food-cultural values. Finally, it should be noted that even though the data does not indicate that young people want a complete reform of the Norwegian school meal structure from cold to hot school meals there is little doubt that there is potential for improvement. On the top of the wish-list is cheaper and healthier food. Many wanted more fruit and vegetables. Small steps by politicians, bureaucrats and school management may thus have a great impact on young peoples perception of the quality of school meals. Accordingly, there has been a tendency that young peoples food styles have been ignored in youth research. However, this study of young peoples food and eating habits during the school day clearly shows that food and drink are important symbols of self-expression among young people. There is a need for more studies that discuss how young people negotiate and interpret food-cultural structures and relations.

Acknowledgements
This research was funded by grants from the Research Council of Norway, programme Public Health.

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Notes
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Aftenposten 03.08.07. Jamie Olivers campaign for better school lunch. VG, 14.02.07. http://nn.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matpakke (11.02.08). http://www.bondelaget.no/barn/matpakka/matensk.html#Heading2 (11.02.08). Sosialistisk venstreparti SV. VG, 24.08.07. http://mobil.aftenposten.no/1163/868/570994.html?e=346. Dagens innlegg (Todays contribution) Aftenposten Si;D, 15.11.08. 9 The youth in this survey had one or both parents from Sweden, France, Morocco, Thailand, India, Pakistan and Somalia. Some of them had even lived in these countries for parts of their lives.

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ANNECHEN BAHR BUGGE gained a doctorate in sociology from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in 2005. She is now engaged in a post doctoral project on socio-cultural aspects of teenagers food choices and eating patterns. She obtained her masters degree in sociology at the University of Oslo in 1993. Annechen works at the National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), Oslo, Norway, where her eld of research is food and eating habits. Address: National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), PO Box 4682 Nydalen, N-0405 Oslo, Norway. [e-mail: annechen. bugge@sifo.no]

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