The framing of food in Canadian university classrooms

A preliminary analysis of undergraduate human nutrition sciences, dietetics, and food studies syllabi


  • Andrea Bombak University of New Brunswick
  • Michelle Adams University of New Brunswick
  • Sierra Garofalo Lakehead University
  • Constance Russell Lakehead University
  • Emma Robinson University of New Brunswick
  • Barbara Parker Lakehead University
  • Natalie Riediger University of Manitoba
  • Erin Cameron NOSM University



Food positivity, education, post-secondary, food studies, nutrition education, Canada, Discourse analysis


There are numerous “positivity” movements circulating such as sex positivity and body positivity that affect how sexuality and bodies are discussed, including in educational contexts. These movements have provided alternative discourses that challenge constructions of sexualities and bodies as “dangerous”, aberrant, or “other”. There is potential for “food positivity” to do the same given how food is frequently constructed as “risky”, reflecting anxieties about industrial food production and the impacts of “bad” food on human health, appearance, and the environment. Food practices, and the discourses that support them act as moral signifiers and can be exclusionary, exacerbating marginalization and inequities. Alternatively, food pedagogies can prioritize inclusion, diversity, and sustainable, resilient communities. How might the discourses that circulate in post-secondary food education construct and support positive relationships with food? Two major, and largely silo-ed, fields in Canadian higher education are Nutritional Sciences and Food Studies. Using publicly available syllabi (n=97) from undergraduate courses across Canada, this study investigated how food positivity is being enacted. In Nutritional Sciences, food positivity emphasizes nutritionism ideology whereby the composition and quantity of nutrients can add up to an (undefined) healthy diet. In Food Studies, food positivity is associated with local, equity-promoting, and culturally-sensitive approaches. In both fields, “food negativity” also appears in relation to “obesogenic” foods and systems, revealing an underlying fatphobia. Greater transdisciplinary collaboration with Fat Studies would benefit both fields in enacting a broader and more inclusive food positivity.





How to Cite

Bombak, A., Adams, M., Garofalo, S., Russell, C., Robinson, E., Parker, B., … Cameron, E. (2024). The framing of food in Canadian university classrooms: A preliminary analysis of undergraduate human nutrition sciences, dietetics, and food studies syllabi. Canadian Food Studies La Revue Canadienne Des études Sur l’alimentation, 11(1), 211–236.