In Sweden, a process involving the de-institutionalisation of services and the establishment of community-based settings for people with intellectual disability has meant changes in meal arrangements. In the present study, we focus on the social arrangements of meals in community-based settings.
Participant observations were used to study the meals as social events for 32 participants, 9 of whom lived in supported living and 23 in group homes.
Breakfast and dinner were often eaten alone, while lunch at the daily activity centre and the food eaten between meals (snacks) were mostly shared with other people. Meals for participants in supported living were seldom social, and meals for participants in the group homes often hierarchical.
The participants were often limited in choosing their company at meals, which typically consisted of other people with intellectual disability and staff. If they made such choices, they were dependent upon staff support to realise them.