“Eating isn’t just swallowing food”: Food practices in the context of social class trajectory


  • Brenda L. Beagan Dalhousie University
  • Elaine M. Power Queen's University
  • Gwen E. Chapman University of British Columbia




social class, eating patterns, eating habits, class mobility, class trajectory


Drawing from a qualitative study with 105 families across Canada, this paper focuses on 16 households in which one or more adults experienced significant social class trajectories in their lifetimes. Using semi-structured interviews and two photo-elicitation techniques, adults and teens articulated their perceptions of healthy eating, eating well, conflicts and struggles around food, and typical household food patterns. This analysis examines how habitus from class of origin can influence food dispositions, as well as how participants used food and talk about food to mark symbolic and moral boundaries on the basis of class. In particular, people used discourses of cosmopolitan and omnivorous eating, ethical eating, and healthy eating, as well as the moral virtue of frugality, to align or dis-identify with class of origin or current class location. Our analysis shows that food can be a powerful symbolic means of marking class boundaries.

Author Biographies

Elaine M. Power, Queen's University

Associate Professor, School of Kinesiology & Health Studies

Gwen E. Chapman, University of British Columbia

Professor,  Food, Nutrition and Health




How to Cite

Beagan, B. L., Power, E. M., & Chapman, G. E. (2015). “Eating isn’t just swallowing food”: Food practices in the context of social class trajectory. Canadian Food Studies La Revue Canadienne Des études Sur l’alimentation, 2(1), 75–98. https://doi.org/10.15353/cfs-rcea.v2i1.50



Research Article