How does convenient-eating become ‘convenient’? Exploring the spatio-temporalities of eating at an inner urban university

Ms Bhavna Middha1

1RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia


This paper studies convenience-eating, characterized by eating on-the-go, which is largely associated with resource and energy intensive practices. It aims to understand the complex socio-technical and spatiotemporal arrangements that enable and constitute convenience in food by studying ‘convenience-eating’ as a practice. In order to do so, this paper uses social practice theories to examine the ‘time-space infrastructures’ created, for example not only by the conventional ‘time squeeze’ that has come to define convenient-eating but a more spatially oriented ‘timing’. The paper draws from an ethnographic project that studied the eating spaces at the city campus of RMIT University, Melbourne through students’ eating practices using methods such as focus groups, digital ethnography that included posting ‘food selfies’ on a private Facebook page, and food maps drawn by research participants. The paper contends that the mobility of food and people is created by the spatiotemporal organizations of routines and spaces at the University, such as timetables, activities like lunchtime courses, and policies that allow eating anytime and anywhere including in classrooms and libraries. The paper argues that this mobility, while aimed at creating convenience, mostly creates eating spaces that lead to unsustainable outcomes such as the use of packaged and processed food.


Bhavna has recently submitted her PhD thesis, and she is based at the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT  University. Her research has examined interconnections between students’ eating practices with the food and eating spaces provided at urban universities. She analysed how these relationships produced and/or can produce spaces that are potential pathways to sustainable consumption. She is interested in research on environmental sustainability, urban spaces and their interconnections with food provisioning and consumption, as well as digital ethnography.

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