Unboxing the bento box: An arts-informed inquiry into Japanese families’ experience at Canadian school lunch time
Keywords:bento, school food environment, food culture mismatch, family food practice, immigration
Bento, a Japanese style boxed lunch, has a distinct cultural meaning for Japanese people as a medium of affective communication between children and parents. However, in Canadian schools governed by the Anglo-Western food norms, their culinary practices may stand out. This study employed an arts-informed participatory design to explore how school-aged children (6-12 years old) of Japanese origin and their parents describe their experience bringing Japanese food to school in Canada. We conducted arts-informed workshops with 16 children who created artworks about their lunchboxes, and focus groups with 19 parents (all mothers). Children’s artworks illuminated a common aesthetics about “good” lunch that closely reflected mothers’ commitment to preparing nutritionally balanced and aesthetically appealing bento boxes. Both children and mothers reported that Canadian school food environment (e.g., short eating periods, snack times, built environment) sometimes misaligns with their food practices. Some families were compelled to modify their bento to accommodate children’s needs to fit in at school. Meantime, participants’ narratives indicate the prevalence of stigma toward “junk” food that may perpetuate food shaming at school. A more inclusive, diverse and culturally appropriate discussion on “healthy eating” at school can embrace children’s and their families’ intercultural food identities.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Yukari Seko, Lina Rahouma, Chie Takano Reeves, Veen Wong
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms: Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. Work published in CFS/RCÉA prior to and including Vol. 8, No. 3 (2021) is licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY license. Work published in Vol. 8, No. 4 (2021) and after is licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA license. Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal. Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work. (See more on Open Access.)