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Diet and Nutrition in Institutions of Care: History & Policy

Prue Leith CBE, the cook, caterer, business woman, and novelist, has campaigned tirelessly to improve standards in hospital and school food. Of this conference, she says that:

"It's time we stopped ignoring institutional food. It can't be right that 40% of hospital patients leave hospital worse nourished than they went in, that prisoners eat their meals in their cells, that nurses eat "on the go" from vending machines. We need to identify the obstacles preventing caterers providing enjoyable nourishing food. I hope this conference will do exactly that and also inspire those with the power to do something about it to act."

On Friday 21 April 2017 the Centre for History of Medicine at the University of Warwick is delighted to host a full-day event exploring the history of, and current policy around, diet and nutrition in institutions of care. Together with 35 specially selected speakers and guests we will consider who makes the choices around food in institutions, and how and why those decisions might differ in terms of funding, quality, and source in different settings. The workshop will particularly focus on hospitals and prisons, linking to the work of two Wellcome funded projects:


  • Control & Choice
  • Moral Economy & Entitlement
  • Institutions & Community


  •  Dr Ian Miller, Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland, University of Ulster: Eating and Starving to Death in Medical Care: Ethics, Food and Emotions, c.1970s-90
  • Helen Sandwell & Victoria Williams, Food Matters: Food Matters Inside & Out: A Project at Wandsworth Reform Prison
  • An-Sofie Vanhouche, University of Brussels: Enjoying Your Prison Meal: Prisoners' experience with self-perception in the framework of a self-catering project
  • Katharine Jenner, Campaign for Better Hospital Food: Hospital Food Can Be Improved Only By Legislation
  • Tenna Jensen, The Saxo Institute, Københavns Universitet: Age Matters: The influence of age perceptions on 20th century institutional meals
  • Philip Shelley, Hospital Caterers Association: The Role of the Hospital Caterer
  • Professor Jonathan Reinarz, Institute of Applied Health Research, Director of Medicine Unit, University of Birmingham: Making choices, Constructing Communities: towards a history of hospital food
  • Hugh McNeill, Project Manager, Trussell Trust Coventry Food Bank: Beyond Foodbanks: Looking at the implications for moving away from the foodbank model
  • Jennifer Jones-Rigby, Health Exchange: Breathe Well... Take Control - a bottom-up, participant-designed, assets-based approach to supporting those with COPD and their carers

The speakers are joined by experts who will bring a historical perspective to the day: Professor Hilary Marland; Professor Rebecca Earle; Dr Jane Hand; and Professor Mathew Thomson, as well as Lucy Vincent from Food Behind Bars.

The event is kindly being part-funded by the Warwick Food Global Research Priority Group, and is organised by Dr Margaret Charleroy and Dr Jennifer Crane.

Download the programme (PDF)

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Follow us @HistPrisnHealth

Follow our LiveTweet on the day #WarwickFoodConf #NHSfood #PrisonFood

Now fully booked Contact either of the organisers to be added to the waiting list and receive information after the event.

Read an article featuring Margaret and Jenny Fish custard anyone? The food of healing and punishment