An investigation into Commensality in the ‘School Restaurant’

Gurpinder Lalli


This article questions whether we need to reconsider school meals as social events, communal gatherings and an educative space rather than just as a space to provide pupils with health and nutrition. Therefore, this article does not consider the nutritional elements of the school meal but commensality and the notion of eating together. The primary aim of the paper is to make an attempt to theorise the school meal situation drawing specifically on the notion of commensality; the practice of eating together, which is said to signify unity and sharing in a given cultural context (Tuomainen, 2014).  A focus is placed on the interaction between pupils and staff in the school restaurant.  This paper reports on a case study from a Midlands School in the UK and investigates the significance of commensality during school meals. It draws on reflections from narratives taken from the case study and employs ethnographic techniques in the school dining hall to argue that the school restaurant has developed as a space for fostering social skills development.  Moreover, it was also a forum for acquiring appropriate etiquette and decorum.  A detailed discussion on the act of commensality is interwoven throughout this article and Lave and Wenger (1991) and their notion of Communities of Practice (COP) is used to support the discussion of the influence of the restaurant on social practices.

Lalli, G. (2017) An investigation into Commensality in the ‘School Restaurant’. Educationalfutures, [online] Vol. 8(2). Available at: [Accessed 21 Apr, 2024].