Food education should be a priority in Canadian classrooms

OTTAWA, Oct. 31, 2013 /CNW/ - Children need to learn more than how to read and write at school—they should also be learning about a healthy diet, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report.

Incorporating education about nutrition into Canadian school programs, at least up to a Grade 6 level, is one of the recommendations from the report published by the Centre for Food in Canada, What's to Eat? Improving Food Literacy in Canada.

"Nutrition education for children is especially important as a positive influence on their food-related knowledge and skills, eating and physical activity behaviours, and health status," said Alison Howard, Principal Research Associate. "This is the prime time to teach them behaviours that will have a lasting impact on the rest of their lives."

Food nutrition education efforts and school nutrition programs are most effective when paired together, as outlined in a previous Centre for Food in Canada report, Enough for All: Household Food Security in Canada.

  • There are still significant gaps in Canadians' knowledge about food nutrition and health.
  • Factors such as price, convenience, taste and availability compete with knowledge about nutrition and health when consumers are making food-related decisions.

Food literacy can be broadly defined as an individual's food-related knowledge, attitudes, and skills. These factors influence food-related decisions and behaviours.

Food literacy refers to the ability of people to: select and purchase nutritious foods and meals, safely store and prepare food, interpret food labels and claims, and plan and budget for meals. Although most Canadians have a fairly good basic knowledge of food, nutrition, and health, they often do not put that knowledge to use.

The report highlights successful programs, such as Health Canada's popular Canada's Food Guide, school meal programs, and partnerships among the public sector, private enterprises and not-for-profit organizations.

Along with incorporating food literacy into school curricula, the report makes six additional recommendations:

  • Make nutritional information more effective, understandable and accessible for household use.
  • Tailor food literacy programs to high-risk populations and community needs, such as Aboriginal peoples and recent immigrants.
  • Foster parental involvement in hands-on experiential opportunities to develop food literacy.
  • Create guiding principles for children's advertising as it relates to nutrition.
  • Replicate highly successful international food literacy programs, such as the Food Dudes in the United Kingdom and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation in Australia.
  • Track, study and evaluate food literacy initiatives.

This report is one of 20 being produced by the Centre for Food in Canada. Since 2010, the Centre has been engaging stakeholders from business, government, academia, associations, and communities in creating a Canadian Food Strategy —one that will meet the country's need for a coordinated, long-term strategy on industry prosperity, healthy and safe food, household food security, and environmental sustainability. The strategy will be launched at the third Canadian Food Summit, in March 2014.

SOURCE: Conference Board of Canada

For further information:

Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 221


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