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CCYSC Call for Feature Essays
January, 2023- March, 2023

Beyond Candies and Fairy Tales: Thinking about Children’s Food Culture

Understanding the relationship between a child and food is a way of understanding the workings of the world order of the young (Katz 1980). A child’s attitude towards food is an index towards understanding the child’s emotional stability, adjustment to social order, and practice of social requirements. Alison James in defining a culture exclusive to children explores how children consuming cheap candies incites adult disapproval and their act of consumption of such candies or “kets” (British slang for the cheap sweets) suggests a subversive act against the adult world (1998). In literature children’s relationship to food bears metaphorical significance like the looming threat of “being eaten” by wolves or any monster, of poisoned food, food-bearing transformative qualities through magic, realistic representation and so on. Sigmund Freud related food and hunger to the figure of the mother (1926). M. F. K. Fisher writes how food, security, and love are interchangeably associated and so is hunger (Fisher 1943). Therefore, food transcends beyond its materiality in imagination and practice in the world of children.


The process of imbibing nutrition that begins at the mother’s womb is the first worldly exchange of the child. The relationship between food and children begins as an indispensable regime at home which extends to the lunch hours or dining spaces of school significantly influencing the child towards a larger world order. Cultural documents meant for children represent food often in excess in the form of feasts, picnics and banquets that set the storyline in motion and often being allowed to eat whatever one wants, and as much as one wants of it, a luring aspect of such narratives. Food and eating can be metaphorically interpreted as greed, reward, deprivation, and disgust, occurring as recurrent themes in children’s literature. Since, children learn a lot from imitation, food interjections in children’s literary, cultural texts, and visual history influence the patterns of consumption in children.


Children are budding social beings and their interpersonal relations can be telling in view of their future. Minakshi Thapan in her ethnographic study Life at School suggests that besides dress code, “grub” (food other than that available in the Dining Hall) remained among the most debated topics between teachers and students on the Democracy Board. Again, when it came to building friendships in a boarding school, food played a crucial role and also provided a glimpse into the “underworld” of pupil culture (Thapan 2006). Thus, commensality among children reflects their process of becoming a social being and their participation or aversion towards such processes impacts their identity. These associations can also be extended to aspects of bullying and body image related to the underweight or obese features of the child.


The discussion of children and food in the Global North has been widely investigated from literary and cultural points of view. However, the deeper issues lying beyond such representations bring us to the issues of nutrition and paediatrics that often concern the coordinates of the Global South. Hunger problems of children in conflict zones, malnutrition of children, and child-bearing mothers are a worldwide humanitarian concern. Government policies of mid-day meals like in India, UNICEF initiatives like Meena and her Friends to promote issues related to nutrition deficiency and consumption based on gender, and NGO efforts of awareness programmes like those led by Sharada Gopal fighting misconception surrounding nutrition exhibit the urgency to secure the right to food for children. The complexities of such measures reveal sociocultural conditions of the children and also their parents. Incidents, such as an upper-caste student refusing to eat food cooked by a Dalit person, shed light on the caste system in Indian society. It also reveals the purity-pollution binary of the child as reflected from its value system.


The immense influence that food casts on children also accounts for the new trends in communication and media. With economic liberalisation, the accessibility of kids and young adults to fast food chains like McDonald’s and the middle-class parental aspiration to provide for their kids is defining trends in children’s food culture. Fads are promoted by, for instance, health drink advertisements, cartoon characters consuming canned spinach, and children consuming cartoons. While children eating in front of the television is a recurrent complaint, it reflects the growing consumerism of both food and popular culture in the children’s world. Television shows like Masterchef Junior gained popularity among children and activities like fireless cooking became a means to engage children indoors during the COVID-19 Pandemic.


In a society, growing in inequalities, narratives of depravations run parallel to the narratives of plenty. Projects like Clean India Journal that aim at curbing the wastage of food by feeding children in orphanages is a mindful initiative to ensure the right to food to the child. Chittaprosad Bhattacharya in his visual reportage on child rights created a collection of linocuts under the title Angels without Fairy Tales (1952), where he highlighted the need for food homes, food and milk as children’s appeal. In this proposal, we seek profound responses to such issues on children and food. The purpose of this issue is to think beyond the materiality of food in relation to children’s engagement with it in their everyday lives, and critically intervene in the issues of child rights and rights of the young adult.


Focussing on the complex relationship of food to children in the Global South, this call for feature essays welcomes entries on diverse intersections of the theme: visual reportage and long-form essays to be archived at the CCYSC. Well researched, referenced and analytical submissions are appreciated between a word limit of 2500-3000. The use of visual aids, photographs, audio clips and other creative modes is encouraged in these feature essays. Any queries must be sent to by the 5 February, 2023. We look forward to reading your work!

Keywords: Children, Right to food, Nutrition, Hunger, Consumption

Areas of emphasis for this call for papers include (but are not limited to):

  • Class and Caste codes related to children and food practices

  • Health and nutrition of children and awareness around the misconception

  • Literary and Visual Representation of children and food practices

  • Children and Food shows

  • Children and food crisis

  • Children, Food and Pedagogy

  • Global trends in the consumer culture of the child


James, Alison. “Confections, Concoctions, and Conceptions.” The Children’s Culture Reader, edited by H. Jenkins, New York University Press, 1998, pp. 394-405.

Katz, Wendy R. “Some Uses of Food in Children’s Literature.” Children’s Literature in Education, vol. 11, no. 4, 1980, pp. 192–199.

Thapan, Minakshi. Life at School: An Ethnographic Study. Oxford India Paperbacks, 2006.

Fisher, M. F. K. The Gastronomical Me. Sloan and Pearce, 1943, pp. vii. 

Freud S.  “The Question of Lay Analysis: Conversations with an Impartial Person.” in Freud Complete Works, edited by Strachey J., Caddo Parish,  2010.

Mallik, S. K. ​​Chittaprosad: A Doyen of Art-World. Shilpayan Artists Society, 1995, pp. 95–96.


Feature-Essay Editor/Intern- Srijita Biswas


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