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A capabilities approach to food choices.

Gombert, Karolina; Douglas, Flora; Carlisle, Sandra; McArdle, Karen


Karolina Gombert

Sandra Carlisle

Karen McArdle


The authors question the notion of food choice and consider how much food choice someone living on low income actually has. In their fieldwork, it became clear that food choices, and hence one’s nutritional and health state, cannot be viewed in separation from the participants’ individual stories and the complexities of their lives. Daily routines, financial situation, and food accessibility have an impact on people’s food choices. In realising this, they found Amartya Sen’s (1979, 1985) capabilities approach useful, which moves beyond food entitlements. More specifically, a health capabilities approach as introduced by Venkatapuram (2007, 2011) and the association made between health and capabilities by others (e.g. Ruger Yale Joural Law Humanities 18 (2): 3, 2003) views health as the combination of the influence of socio-economic structures, as well as personal agency resulting in choices. The authors present the main learnings from viewing Foodways and Futures through the ‘capabilities lens’ and thus view food choices as the combination of the complex interrelations between socio-economic structures and agency.


GOMBERT, K., DOUGLAS, F., CARLISLE, S. and MCARDLE, K. 2017. A capabilities approach to food choices. Food ethics [online], 1(2), pages 143-155. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 29, 2017
Online Publication Date Jun 16, 2017
Publication Date Aug 31, 2017
Deposit Date May 22, 2020
Publicly Available Date May 22, 2020
Journal Food Ethics
Print ISSN 2364-6853
Electronic ISSN 2364-6861
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 1
Issue 2
Pages 143-155
Keywords Young people; Food poverty; Capabilities approach; Amartya Sen; Choice; Action research; Vulnerable groups
Public URL


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