Fast-Food Kids: French Fries, Lunch Lines and Social Ties

Fast-Food Kids: French Fries, Lunch Lines and Social Ties

by Amy L. Best


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2018 Morris Rosenberg Award, DC Sociological Society

In recent years, questions such as “what are kids eating?” and “who’s feeding our kids?” have sparked a torrent of public and policy debates as we increasingly focus our attention on the issue of childhood obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that while 1 in 3 American children are either overweight or obese, that number is higher for children living in concentrated poverty. Enduring inequalities in communities, schools, and homes affect young people’s access to different types of food, with real consequences in life choices and health outcomes. Fast-Food Kids sheds light on the social contexts in which kids eat, and the broader backdrop of social change in American life, demonstrating why attention to food’s social meaning is important to effective public health policy, particularly actions that focus on behavioral change and school food reforms.

Through in-depth interviews and observation with high school and college students, Amy L. Best provides rich narratives of the everyday life of youth, highlighting young people’s voices and perspectives and the places where they eat.

The book provides a thorough account of the role that food plays in the lives of today’s youth, teasing out the many contradictions of food as a cultural object—fast food portrayed as a necessity for the poor and yet, reviled by upper-middle class parents; fast food restaurants as one of the few spaces that kids can claim and effectively ‘take over’ for several hours each day; food corporations spending millions each year to market their food to kids and to lobby Congress against regulations; schools struggling to deliver healthy food young people will actually eat, and the difficulty of arranging family dinners, which are known to promote family cohesion and stability.

A conceptually-driven, ethnographic account of youth and the places where they eat, Fast-Food Kids examines the complex relationship between youth identity and food consumption, offering answers to those straightforward questions that require crucial and comprehensive solutions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781479842704
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 02/28/2017
Series: Critical Perspectives on Youth Series , #4
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Amy L. Best is Professor of the Sociology at George Mason University. She is author of Prom Night Youth, Schools and Popular Culture, which was selected for the 2002 American Educational Studies Association Critics’ Choice Award, and Fast Cars, Cool Rides: The Accelerating World of Youth and Their Cars. She is also the editor of Representing Youth: Methodological Issues in Critical Youth Studies."

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction: Fast-Food Kids 1

1 The Family Meal: Eating Together, Eating Apart 31

2 The Cafeteria as Great Equalizer: Making Food Good 54

3 The Cafeteria as Youth Space: Social Bonds and Barriers 78

4 Eat What's Good for You: Class and the Cult of Health 99

5 I'm Lovin' It: Fast Food and After-School Hot Spots 123

Conclusion: Food Futures and Social Change 149

Methods Appendix 169

Notes 187

References 221

Index 235

About the Author 245

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