What Do the ‘Breadwinners’ Do? Understanding Fathers’ Roles in Family Food Work in Australia

  •  Lillian Fenner    
  •  Cathy Banwell    


In the context of global concern about children’s weight and health, this study aims to investigate the extent to which Australian fathers are involved in family food work which includes feeding the family, and associated tasks such as shopping, food selection, planning meals, preparing, cooking, and cleaning up. It seeks to identify whether fathers consider children’s ‘healthiness’ and weight gain when performing these tasks, and what, if any, nutritional information resources they accessed.

A qualitative exploratory study using semi-structured face-to-face interviews was conducted with eight fathers aged between 25 to 50 years living in the Australian Capital Territory. Participants discussed their roles in food provisioning and their perceptions of the food work process.

A commitment to equally sharing domestic tasks between partners was frequently acknowledged amongst participants, despite the persistence of performative gendered norms. Male participants also discussed some of the constraining factors influencing their involvement in food provisioning. These included time scarcity, working commitments and cost. Whilst nutrition was considered when selecting and preparing food, most participants reported that they had not accessed or received nutritional and health information for their children. These findings provided insights into fathers’ perceptions of their roles and responsibilities of healthy food provisioning. Furthermore, this study suggests that public health researchers and health promoters should adapt their efforts to include fathers in education about the nutritional content of food for primary aged children, given the apparent paucity in these resources.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.