There’s No Such Thing as a Free School Lunch?

When and Where

Friday, March 06, 2020 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm


Dr. Sinikka Elliott

Canada doesn’t have a national school food program, making it an anomaly among comparable wealthy nations. With growing calls for the federal government to move toward establishing a national school food program, many questions remain about how school food programs are experienced and used by students and families themselves.

Sinikka Elliott will draw on a school lunch research project she conducted with an interdisciplinary team in three schools in a suburban school district. The project documented students’ and parents’ experiences as the school district phased out an existing program offering a limited number of free or low-cost lunches and introduced a new lunch program which all families could purchase. This new program used funds from families paying full cost to help subsidize lunches for those with financial need. Examining these two programs through ethnographic observations in schools as well as parent surveys offers valuable insight into school food cultures and the perspectives of Canadian families necessary to inform school food programming.

Dr. Sinikka Elliott is an associate professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia. She is the author of two books, Not My Kid: What Parents Believe About the Sex Lives of their Teenagers (New York University Press, 2012) and Pressure Cooker: Why Home Cooking Won’t Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It (Oxford University Press, 2019), and has published numerous articles in her areas of research. Sinikka’s work has received widespread attention in national and international news outlets, and she has written for the New York Times, NPR, and the Guardian, among others. Her current projects examine the pressing issues families face around food access and security, contributing to vital conversations about social inequality and the need for supportive family policies.

To Students in the Collaborative Specialization program: This seminar is part of the Culinaria Seminar Series SRM 3333H.