The social arrangement of meal patterns and meal practices hos Institut for Fødevare- og Ressourceøkonomi - Københavns Universitet

Student profile:

This project is suitable for two* or more students who would like to write interconnected theses on the social arrangements of meal patterns and meal practices, specifically meals at home.

NB: It is for minimum two students and preferably more due to the load of empirical work.



Meals refer to eating practices that follow a regular structure in space and time. Meals entail regular norms and practices of procurement, preparation, eating, and disposal. They are primary locations where social practices and norms are produced and reproduced. Research on meals has covered multiple topics. These include the timing, place, and composition of meals; the impact of broader social structures on meal patterns; the social reproduction of gender, racial and ethnic, and familial norms, and structures; the social transmission of food related practices, habits, and tastes; and the normative patterns and practices that govern food distribution among family, friends, and others. Much of the early research on family meals focused on family meals in specific national contexts, especially the US, the UK, Germany, and Scandinavia. Most of this research is dated from the 1990s, and there is a need for newer studies on current meal practices and social norms around household eating.

Research focus:

You may want to focus your research on the following subjects:

  • Meals in conventional families – e.g. dual earners, and couples with children

  • Meals in non-traditional families and households. These might include LGBTQ families, racially blended families, families where one or more members are from different cultural backgrounds including migrants or refugees, roommates, single parents, and people living alone.

  • Disrupted and discordant meal patterns at home.

  • Constraints and opportunities for a sustainable dietary transition in the context of the meals at home.

  • Meals at home for an aging population.

  • Meals at home under conditions of material deprivation.


Work form:

The students will work with the supervisors to identify research participants, methodological approaches, and separate but interrelated research questions to collect a shared data set rich enough for each student to write a separate thesis.

Multiple methodologies have been used to study meals. These include focus groups, in-depth interviews, participant observation and other ethnographic methods, time-use surveys, dietary recalls, photo-voice, and textual and visual analysis. Within the boundaries of what you can practically pull off during a relatively short thesis project, we are open to any of these methods.


Professor Lotte Holm and Associate Professor Wesley Dean from Department of Food and Resource Economics (IFRO) will act as supervisors and provide coordination of the projects and if feasible, assist in manuscript development of one or more journal articles with shared authorship among the research team.

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