(no) Family and (no) Food: the experiences of eating, food ‘choice’ and body image among homeless men and women and thos

Aberdeen soup kitchen

Principal Investigator:

Graham Smith, (ScHARR)


Paula Nicolson (Health and Social Care, Royal Holloway, University of London)


Rebecca Brown

Aims and objectives:

The project aims to explore the ways in which food is used by both homeless people and their carers to construct fictive kin and family relationships. The project will expand upon earlier research (Smith, 1997) which indicated that discourses about food and feeding amongst both staff and homeless were underpinned by a number of ideological perspectives, including those that were reminiscent of earlier formulations of the deserving poor, the family as a shelter in a hostile world, food as charity, as well as more recent developments, including the provision of food as dividing professional bodies from clients´ bodies.

Research questions:

  • What are the connections between food, family and ideology (including body/self image and charity) in the narrated memories of homeless people and voluntary workers and paid staff in a homeless charity?
  • What role do constructions of food and family play in the relationships between homeless people and staff and volunteers in a homeless charity?
  • What changes can the research identify in such constructions?

Research design:

The project will collect and analyse of life history and semi-structured interviews with homeless men and their carers in a national voluntary organisation, a well as re-analyse an earlier and similar set of interviews from a project conducted in the mid-1990s.