Hybrid Forum Belgium


Country  HF Title/ date 
BelgiumHF 1: Manger à l’école : quelle place pour l’opinion des enfants ? / Eating at school : what place for children’s opinion ?  
The 23th of June 2021,  at a public school, in the Province of Liège  
HF 2: Goûter-débat “Manger au centre : miam, bof ou beurk ? » / Snack time-debate 
« Eating at the center : yum, so-so or yuck ?” 
At reception center for asylum seeker, in the Province of Liège 
 the 5th of Agust 2021  

HYBRID FORUM 1 in Belgium

Theme of the forum.  

In Belgium, the fieldwork and the preparation of pilots mostly took place at a kindergarden and a primary school where children in asylum seeking situation are schooled. In parallel, we visited regularly the reception center for asylum seekers where the children live with their family.  

During the ethnographic data production step at school, we observed that food was often at the core of different tensions and misunderstandings between children, and between children and adults. More specifically, migrant children food was often pointed out as unhealthy, too salty, fat or sweety at school. 

Moreover, for several years, in Belgium and in European countries in general, unhealthy food in the institutions, especially at school, is the topic of a lot of public controversy regarding health issue (Johansson et al. 2015 ; Comoretto 2015 ; Earl 2017). In order to deal with children overweight issue, most of the schools are trying to improve families’ eating habits and to promove ethic and healthy lunch, by building local initiatives or/and by prohibiting  products (as soda, juce, chips or others snacks). Thus, food is mostly discussed at school in a nutritional perspective, without taking into consideration the cultural or social dimension of food. Moreover, most of the decisions regarding food at school are taken by teachers regarding their own food experiences at school. In this respect, children’s opinion is rarely taken into consideration. Children food practices and norms are more often perceived by adults as out of the food norms, socially and nutrition standards.  

These observations and discussions during our workshops about anthropology lead us to our hybrid forum topic which was : “eating at school : what place for children’s opinion ?”.  

Description of the hybrid forum 

The first hybrid forum took place at school with pupils of 10-11 years old (5th grade student at the primary school in Belgium). We chose to have the hybrid forum between children, firstly in order to allow children to express their opinion without restrictions from any adults, and secondly to highlight children voice on food. Moreover, at this period, the school had strict rules regarding the pandemic situation, and it was forbidden to mix pupils from different levels or schools in a same space, what was our first idea. Thus, the hybrid forum was both in presential and in virtual way. It was accessible online to the local public schools, the other levels of students and to some colleagues from the university of Liège. Nevertheless, we chose to limit the audience in order to avoid pressuring pupils too much during the debate. So, we had not a lot of external audience because the others school of the commune were informed too late and unfortunately they could not connect. However, a PhD student from the University of Liège could assist to the meeting virtually and two teachers of the school.  

Time : 9h20-11h20 

Part 1: expert part 

9h20-10h10 : introduction /information part 

Who participated ?  

Belgian Food2Gather team : Elodie Razy & Mélanie Vivier 

The 5th grade pupils  

The children’s teacher 

Who was leading? 

The Food2gather Belgian researchers (Élodie Razy & Mélanie Vivier) 

What happened?  

Elodie Razy and Mélanie Vivier presented the Food2Gather project and what is an hybrid forum. Based on the activities organised each week at school (to prepared the pilots), the Belgian team explained more deeply how the debate would be conducted (topic, different steps, animation of the discussion etc.). The information part on food and migration issue was organised during the pilots preparation activities, which means before the hybrid forum. During the hybrid forum, the researcher came back on different notions and importants aspects of the Food2Gather project.  

Here is the script of the researcher’s presentation:  

presentation of the Food2Gather (with the map of the different countries involved) ; 

presentation of the anthropological approach on food  

explanation of what is an hybrid forum in order to help children to understand the concept and the configuration of the activities.  We presented it also as a “participative citizen public discussion” by setting an example from the “children town council” that is organised by the municipality each year.  

Exchange time with children : questions and answers  

Part 2: public  part  

Timing : 10h30-11h20 : hybrid forum 

Who leading ?  

A 5th grade girl (volunteer).  

The researchers decided to let the lead to a pupil nominated as moderator. In collaboration with other students, the child decided how to manage the debate. The moderator decided to share the speech time equally between each participants. In case of misbehaviors from children during the debate, we decide together to chose a key word to stop the discussion that was “Frite” (means chips in English). 

Who participated :

expert panel and audience-  

The 5th grade students (of the primary school) : some children directly participated to the debate, some others (who don’t have the right to be filmed) only as the audience ; 

The pupils’ teacher  

The teacher of the DASPA class (a special class for allophone children)  

Researchers of the Belgian Food2Gather team  

Virtual public : a PhD student from the University of Liège  

à 22 children and 5 adults = 27 people  

The debate was based on some pictures placed on the table. The pictures were picked up from the activities organised earlier on food. They represented other ways of eating at school in the world. The children could express their opinion based on the situation described by the picture (for example a meal in a school in Peru, a French canteen etc.).  


The pupils offered to make an evaluation form on children food at school to collect their opinion. This evaluation form has not yet been implemented by the school. The school is open to organize another hybrid forum more open to other classes and schools in order to take into account the children’s opinion. 

The pilots is based on the observations during the fieldwork and the hybrid forum. It consists on the edition of a food encyclopaedia constructed by children for children as a space of encounter and knowledge. It resumes both the activities organised at school by the researchers in collaborations with the children and the teachers,  and the different ways of thinking, eating and providing food as well as the role food can play as a tool for knowing each other.   

Until now and as far as we know, nothing has been done based on the children proposals (see Picture4 & 5) but we will follow this topic when sharing the food encyclopaedia. 


HYBRID FORUM 2 in Belgium  

6-2 Goûter-débat “Manger au centre : miam, bof ou beurk ? » / Snack time-debate 

« Eating at the center : yum, so-so or yuck ?” – At reception center for asylum seeker, in the Province of Liège, the 5th of Agust 2021  

Theme of the forum.  

The observations made on the fieldwork at the center have releaved some local controversies around food at the reception center. Indeed, a lot of residents complain about the food at the canteen of the reception center (provided by a collective catering compagny). Parents at the center seems to particularly suffer of the situation, feeling exhausted in facing their children refusal to eat. In this context, children’s voice seems to be absent from the institution discourses (and adults’ ones in general) on food. We wanted to listen to children’s opinion on food during the hybrid forum.  

Description of the hybrid forum 

Time : 14h-16h  

Part 1: expert part 

Timing : 14h-14h30 

Who participated ?  

Only the researcher Mélanie Vivier (Food2Gather PhD student) and the children from the reception center participated to the hybrid forum. We chose not to have a broader public because the children could be very shy to express their opinions in front of their parents or the social workers of the center. However, some parents circulated in the room during the activity and took some pictures, glad and proud that their children participate in the project.  

Who was leading? 

Mélanie Vivier led the first part, by explaining the children the Food2Gather project and the hybrid forum concept.  

What happened?  

This hybrid forum was only in presential.  

The information part begun by a “quiet time” with children based on music and a story reading activity from the book “Histoire à boire et à croquer” / “Story to drink and chew” (Lafonta 2013).  

Then, Melanie Vivier explained deeply the project and the pilots preparation activity made at school, wherein some children at the reception center participated. 

We continued with an explanation of what is an hybrid forum  

During this part, the children were focused on what the researcher explained.  

Part 2: public  part  

Timing : 14h30-16h 

Who was leading ?  

A child was nominated by the researcher as a moderator of the discussion. But it was difficult for her to stay focused on her role and to manage the discussions in the group. 

Who participated :

expert panel and audience-  

The children who live in the reception center for asylum seeker, from 4 to 12 years old (around 12 children). Even though we had assigned a particular age to participate in the debate, many younger children joined us in some moments (brothers and sisters of the participants and other children of the centre), pushed by their families and by the children to participate in a playful activity that seemed exceptional in the institution.   

We invited also a child who left the reception center so that she could give her opinion on the food changes that she noticed.  

What happened?  

It was a snack-debate. The children could eat at the same time as they discussed the topic debated. We bought different foods that they are not used to having on the menu in the institution (as home-made cookies and cake), as well as other foods from the centre to facilitate the conversation. At the end of the debate, the children could spend a more informal moment by preparing homemade smoothies with the researcher.  


During the conversation, the children were mainly doing a list of what they liked or disliked on the table and in the centre. The discussion between the children was difficult as they were very excited about the idea of eating what was offered. However, this enthusiasm for food also highlighted the importance of sharing food in their eating habits. Indeed, some children were quick to share cakes and smoothies with friends and family. Moreover, their excitement revealed the exceptional nature of such activities around food outside the family and institutional space, and their pleasure in participating in this type of activities in a context where there are quite rare. 


*For privacy reasons, the children’s faces have been replaced by emoji.  

References :  

Comoretto Geraldine, 2015, Manger entre pairs à l’école: Synchronisme et complémentarité des processus de socialisation, PhD Thesis, Versailles-St Quentin en Yvelines. 

Earl Lexi, 2017, « Children’s food maps: using social mapping to understand school foodscapes », Ethnography and Education, vol. 0, n° 0 : 1-21. 

Johansson Barbro, Mäkelä Johanna, Roos Gun, Hillén Sandra, Hansen Gitte Laub, Jensen Tine Mark, et Huotilainen Anna, 2009, « Nordic Children’s Foodscapes », Food, Culture & Society, vol. 12, n° 1 : 25-51.