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Exploring the interaction between online practices and offline domestic food practices in family homes: Implications for food waste reduction campaigns

Ridgway, Andy

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Andy Ridgway
Associate Director (Environment, Conservation & Science Communication)


Food waste is a significant problem in the food system, contributing to the environmental impact of food production and distribution as well as food inequality. In the UK and other high-income countries, a high proportion of the food waste in the food system takes in people’s homes. Food waste levels have remained high despite numerous campaigns aimed at reducing it. Existing research shows that the levels of food waste are particularly high in households with children. It also shows that the causes of food waste are different in different household types. Yet food waste campaigns are generally targeted broadly at all households.

This research explores how middle-class parents in the UK navigate their domestic food practices using social media. By doing so, it seeks to provide insights into how food waste reduction campaigns can be more effective in future, including by targeting them more effectively at different households. The research took place in two phases. Phase one involved an analysis of posts on the popular online parenting forum Mumsnet Talk. Phase two involved interviews with parents who use social media in relation to food. The study has used a Social Practice Theory lens to explore the mechanisms linking domestic food practices in family homes and social media use.

Seven processes of linkage that connect online and offline practices have been identified in this research. It has also identified factors which shape the flow of information within these processes. While existing research has characterised how parents change and adapt their food provisioning practices and the role emotion plays in practice change, this research through the processes of linkage that have been identified, provides insights into the role social media plays in this navigation, negotiation and change.

This research makes theoretical contributions, including to understandings of the way media discourse shapes day-to-day practices. Existing practice theory-informed conceptualisations of media discourse describe it as a resource that is drawn upon to inform practices, this research characterises a recursive relationship between social media discourse and offline practices in which they are co-constructive. It means that what happens on social media can only be understood within the context of the offline practices which take place around it.

Informed by the processes of linkage, practical insights are provided that should aid future targeted food waste reduction campaigns, both those that might use social media and those that take place elsewhere. These insights include the different ways know-how is curated on social media and why this is so effective at bringing about adaptation and change to the ways domestic food practices are performed.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 8, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jun 19, 2023
Keywords food waste, social media, media discourse, trust, expertise, science communication
Public URL
Award Date Jun 19, 2023


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