Social eating initiatives and the practices of commensality

Marsha Smith, John Harvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social eating initiatives are a mode of food provisioning and eating that have become increasingly popular in the UK. These organisations provide a menu of low-cost meals prepared using food surpluses and deliberately serve food communally to improve social inclusion. Although these community initiatives have grown rapidly in popularity, research into their value from the perspective of participants is currently limited. This article presents data from a concurrent multi-method study conducted across multiple sites of the Nottingham Social Eating Network to explain the emergence of these novel social configurations. The results show this form of commensality, or group eating practice, is not simply a consequence of reducing food waste or food insecurity. Instead these initiatives are enacted through a series of intersecting social practices, which include: the restructuration of the shared mealtime; alimentary contribution; and performances of care. The findings provide important insights into the values expressed in these emergent initiatives and are therefore useful for framing social eating in public policy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105107
Early online date15 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Alimentary contribution
  • Commensality
  • Food insecurity
  • Food waste
  • Practice theory
  • Social eating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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