Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

A thesis submitted to the Technological University Dublin in fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), May 2021.


This applied case study explored the role of food education and its potential to nurture the lives of children who may experience disadvantage socially, culturally and economically. The research concedes at the outset that the role of ‘food’ in education is complex, that schools do not deal with curriculum matters alone but also with social justice policy issues, and that school-based ‘food poverty’ policy interventions to date are broadly motivated by nutritional concerns.

The research was informed by a critical pedagogy perspective using a collaborative enquiry design focused on individual and collective agency at the school level. Multiple theoretical and analytical frameworks related to constructivist learning methodologies, educational psychology, and critical social theory framed the study.

The research intervention in the inner-city DEIS Gaelscoil was at the invitation of the Parents’ Council and staff who collectively identified an urgent need for healthier eating practices and a shift to cross-curricular pedagogical practices to meet educational targets in literacy and numeracy. An Integrated Food Edu-Care curriculum module was collaboratively developed and delivered in Irish through weekly class sessions and field-trips. The integrated Food Edu-Care curriculum module consisted of; sixteen food and cooking lessons, a collaborative Hot Lunch Experience (Pedagogic Meal) and the creation of a ‘Foodbook’ as a class project. The curricular areas included in the integrated Food Edu-Care curriculum module included, Mathematics, Language, Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE), Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Visual Arts.

The outputs from the research include an Integrated Food Edu-Care Pedagogical Guide for teachers and Pupils’ Activity Workbook, an ‘e-Foodbook’, educational videos, flashcards and posters in both English and Irish.

The findings indicate that using a collaborative, experiential, caring, active and integrated Food Edu-Care curriculum module has the capacity to reach all learners and to build on classroom relationships, thereby facilitating social and emotional learning particularly in the area of self-efficacy and social skills. The research confirmed that such a curriculum module can incorporate seamless compensation for missed life chances and for on-going disadvantage.

The thesis recommends a fifth domain of emotional and self-efficacy development needs among primary school children which is better facilitated by systemic policy change to school food provision and integrated curriculum with target-free pedagogies than by narrowly focused, targeted initiatives for free school lunches.