The Secret to Improved Food Literacy
Food Math and History are compulsory courses − so why not Food and Nutrition? Everyone eats!
Cooking skills and nutrition knowledge are key to eating well. Awareness of food safety, local food, food security and how to minimize waste round-out the food literacy definition.
Concern grows about a general lack of time, knowledge and skills to prepare healthful, affordable meals at home. Even greater distress surrounds healthcare costs. Home Economists see a connection.
Today, kids who learn to cook are among a fortunate few. Often, families microwave a commercially prepared entrée, or grab ‘take-out’ en route to an event. Not a serious issue – until it becomes regular practice, and it does!
We eat in the car, in front of the TV or computer screen and increasingly, alone. Whatever happened to the family meal time ideal?
Home-cooking began to decline in the mid 1960’s about the time more women sought employment outside the home. Unused skills get lost with time.
The food industry hastened to liberate women from the kitchen and to seek market share. Disposable income increased. Families could now afford to buy prepared entrees or to eat-out to resolve a time crunch.
Yet, what price have we paid for convenience? As rates of home cooking decreased, rates of obesity increased. Type II diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease followed suit. 31 percent of Canadian children are considered overweight or obese leading to other chronic health issues and healthcare strain.
A Community Health Study shows that Canadians consume a daily average of 3000 milligrams of sodium. Twice the daily recommendation! Processed foods deliver a whopping 77 percent of that sodium.
One can of sugar-sweetened pop contains up to 40 grams (10 teaspoons) of sugar. How easy it is to over-consume sugar or sodium if we don’t read food labels.
Education is key
We must learn how food is produced to make informed choices. We must think critically about economic, nutritional and environmental benefits of local food and meet the needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations.
Even so, food bank clients will decline certain produce when food preparation skills are lacking.
“Improved food literacy would advance the health of all Canadians,” the Conference Board of Canada reports. Consumers often over-purchase and thus waste food, ignore a budget or disregard food safety practices."
“Improved food literacy would advance the health of all Canadians,” the Conference Board of Canada reports. Consumers often over-purchase and thus waste food, ignore a budget or disregard food safety practices.
But wait! These topics are part of high school Family Studies curriculum. So why does Ontario not have a higher food literacy rate?
Seven food and nutrition courses were released by the Ministry of Education in 2013, within the Family Studies program. The courses are excellent, hands-on and fun! But many students miss out because the courses are ‘electives’ only.
The Ontario Home Economics Association (OHEA) is calling on the Government of Ontario to make at least one Food & Nutrition course compulsory for students to receive an Ontario Secondary School Diploma.
Knowing what’s in our food is a big advantage of cooking-from-scratch. Add to that…time spent with family, health and budget perks, and pure satisfaction.
The secret to improved food literacy is education! Teach kids to cook and you invest in their health and independence.