Indonesia’s landscapes are linguistically rich and frequently filled with visual signs and texts. These include posters, charts, signs, billboards, road and safety signs, shop signs, graffiti and many other inscriptions in public spaces that convey messages to those who read them.
The purpose of this project was to digitally gather and analyse food/nutrition signs/texts in the ‘linguistic landscapes’ around two Indonesian school communities (inside and immediately outside the school perimeters). This was done to judge the nature of the linguistic landscape that has a likely potential impact on school age children – children who need to learn about good food and nutrition for a long, healthy life.
The research was qualitative in design, and was undertaken in two stages. The first involved text capturing, text analysis and focus group interviews. Stage two was text/document analysis plus content analysis.
Results showed that the linguistic landscape regarding food and nutrition inside school grounds was replete with texts and images from ‘top-down’ sources (policy, government communications, sponsors, food companies, curriculum materials etc.) outlining a solid, informative, endorsed set of information about healthy food and nutrition. However, there was also photographic evidence of texts and images about ‘not-so-healthy’ food both inside and outside the school grounds, with no evidence of nutrition information. This may present a contradiction for the students. Gathered alongside the food and nutrition texts were unrelated images ranging from advertisements for local businesses to labels and, concerningly, cigarette advertising on local food stalls.
Grade five students participated in small focus groups to provide reactions to the food and nutrition images shown to them by the research assistants in their school’s linguistic landscape. Interestingly, the students volunteered parroted information about good and nutritious food that they have learned in class or at home, and were adamant in responding that they did not eat the candy readily available in the school’s canteen or in food stalls outside the school grounds. Photographic evidence exists to the contrary, indicating that school canteens and local sellers’ stalls were well patronised.
This research was a project of perceived value for education authorities in these two school districts, and is intended for upscaling to a project with a broader scope in the future.
This project produced informative data on linguistic landscapes in two of Indonesia’s schooling communities, and the school children’s awareness of the food and nutrition texts/messages directed at them as community participants and, in the case of advertising, consumers. Findings may be very interesting to academia from the food, agriculture, health or medicine sectors. Health or medical researchers in Indonesia will be able to intersect or even correlate their own findings with findings from this project, to gain greater insight into the impact of poor nutrition on school performance.