The Geographies of Childhood Obesity

Sarah Mills

The recent criticism Jamie Oliver received for his attempts to combat obesity in the US highlight how emotive the issue of childhood obesity can be.  The American backlash to Oliver’s latest show – Food Revolutions – has been widely reported and analysed in British newspapers.  Some commentators have remarked it is merely a response to ‘pushy’ Brits and demonstrative of the dwindling ‘special’ relationship between US and Britain.  It has, however, raised the issue of childhood obesity and policies regarding school dinners once more.  This latest venture by Oliver follows on from Jamie’s School Dinners, which aired in the UK in 2005 and focused on improving healthy-eating in British schools.  Whilst his approach received criticism from some quarters, it has had a marked effect on the approach and policies of the UK Government towards school meals.  Indeed, recently published research has shown an overall improvement in children’s health and performance at schools that participated in Oliver’s ‘Feed Me Better’ campaign.  It is yet to be seen how successful Oliver’s campaign in the US will be, yet I would argue his programmes and the debates they raise clearly demonstrates the need for a critical geography of obesity.

Geographer Bethan Evans has focused specifically on childhood obesity and UK policies in her recent article in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.  She explores geographical work on obesity and pre-emptive biopolitics, before examining the “dystopian production of the future nation in obesity policy” (2010:21).  She argues how “children are central to the production and pre-emption of obese futures because of the affective potential of childhood and the paradoxical position of children’s bodies both as children in the present and adults of the future” (2010:21).  Though focusing on the spatiotemporalities of obesity policies, Evans speaks to broader debates about the role of young people in pre-emptive politics and the geographies of ‘globesity’.

Read Toby Young in The Guardian on Jamie Oliver’s US criticism

  Read the BBC Online Story on Oliver’s successful ‘Feed Me Better’ Campaign

  Read Evans, B. (2010) ‘Anticipating fatness: childhood, affect and the pre-emptive ‘war on obesity’’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35 (1): 21-38

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