Food and waste: negotiating conflicting social anxieties into the practices of provisioning

Open access version here

This paper engages the problem of food waste in the home, arguing that it needs to be understood as the fallout of the organisation of everyday life. I authored it with Angela Meah and it was published in Sociological Review Monograph in 2013.

open access | published version | cited by.. |

Watson M and A Meah (2013) ‘Food and waste: negotiating conflicting social anxieties into the practices of provisioning’, in Evans, D, Murcott, A and Campbell, H (eds) Waste Matters: New Perspectives of Food and Society, Sociological Review Monograph, Wiley-Blackwell 60 (S2) 102-120.

ABSTRACT Two significant realms of social anxiety, visible in the discourses of media and public policy, potentially pull practices of home food provisioning in conflicting directions. On the one hand, campaigns to reduce the astonishing levels of food waste generated in the UK moralise acts of both food saving (such as keeping and finding creative culinary uses for leftovers) and food disposal. On the other hand, agencies concerned with food safety, including foodpoisoning, problematise common practices of thrift, saving and reuse around provisioning. The tensions that arise as these public discourses are negotiated together into domestic practices open up moments in which stuff crosses the line from being food to being waste. This paper pursues this through the lens of qualitative and ethnographic data collected as part of a four-year European research programme concerned with consumer anxieties about food. Through focus groups, life-history interviews, and observations, data emerged which gives critical insights into processes from which food waste results. With a particular focus on how research participants negotiate use-by dates, we argue that interventions to reduce food waste can be enhanced by appreciating how food becomes waste through everyday practices

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Author: Matt Watson

A Human Geographer at the University of Sheffield, interested in how everyday human action and social orders make each other, with implications for sustainability and wellbeing. Currently looking at energy including how to tackle demand for it.

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