In England, a rhetoric of supporting ‘troubled families’ through policy interventions mushroomed during the New Labour years of the late 1990s. At this time, early years settings became sites of particular interest in which to implement these policies, seen as places where perceived deficiencies in the household could be addressed. This has led to an overlap of policy domains, predominantly between early years education and family intervention, yet also expanding into other areas. In this context, children’s food policy is seen as an especially fruitful area for intervention, where the aim of ‘improving children’s diets’ often seems to be interlaced with a concern for ‘improving parenting styles’.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in London between 2016 and 2017, this paper explores what happens at the intersection of these different policy domains, examining how particular framings of policy problems – and the solutions developed to address these problems – lead to contradictions and arbitrary results. Linking to wider discussions about the current early childhood education and care (ECEC) landscape in England, the paper also asks to what extent are children’s viewpoints and experiences considered when interventions are developed, and what can be gained when doing so in a meaningful way.
About the speaker
Francesca Vaghi is a Research Associate at the School of Social & Political Science at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. She is currently conducting research on the work of contemporary NHS charities as part of the Border Crossings project: https://more.bham.ac.uk/border-crossings/border-crossings/projects/
Francesca is interested in medical anthropology, the anthropology of policy, and childhood studies. She completed her PhD in 2019 at SOAS, University of London. For her doctoral research, Francesca conducted ethnographic fieldwork in a state-maintained nursery in London over a 12-month period, developing a child-centred methodological approach to meaningfully involve children in research. Aside from investigating how children create self and peer identities through food and eating practices, her work explores how children’s food policy fits into family intervention policies in the context of Britain’s mixed economy of welfare, and how notions of ‘good food’ and ‘good parenting’ (particularly mothering) are interlinked. Her book, Food Policy and Practice in Early Childhood Education and Care, has just been published by Routledge.
Francesca is interested in advancing critical approaches in public health, specifically looking at how dominant policy discourses (re)create and seek to address ‘problems’ that have particular implications for working class and ethnic minority families, particularly in matters related to food insecurity, childhood poverty, and childcare policy. https://pureportal.strath.ac.uk/en/persons/francesca-vaghi (Guest researcher at DIPA from the 2nd of April–1st of May).
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