Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Six by Sixteen: Education or marketing?

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Image by Rob on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence

Six by Sixteen is a “new” initiative by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture to get kids cooking. The idea is that all children should be able to cook at least six things by the time that they’re sixteen.

It was much lauded when it was announced last year. Then their website sat as a placeholder for some time. Last week it was finally populated. There are some videos, links to where to find local food, and a section on healthy eating (which just takes you to links on where to find local foods, what local foods are in season, and Canada’s Food Guide). Essentially the website is a repository of links to pre-existing sites and materials.

I’d like to be excited about this. I think that food skills are very much lacking in our society. I want to applaud any effort to increase the profile of food literacy. I hope that OFA is successful in doing that with this site. However, I think that this initiative could be so much more than it is.

As this is an initiative to promote food literacy I think that more than producers should be involved. There should be dietitians and chefs involved, at the very least. Healthy eating is so much more than knowing where to find local food and having a copy of Canada’s Food Guide. Food literacy is about so much more than being able to boil an egg.

I really hope that OFA will start working with other groups to expand the content and reach of this initiative because it could be really great. As it stands, it’s underwhelming and seems to be more of a marketing tool for its partners than as a truly educational resource.


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More on the return to home ec.

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I’ve been hearing a lot about the push for home economics (especially food skills) to return to high schools (as a mandatory course) in Ontario. I’m completely behind this idea. That being said, we were talking about that back when I worked in public health and that was more than two years ago (and I’m sure that the conversation predated my time). I’m not going to hold my breath.

 

I also think that we need to go further than reintroducing a re-vamped sexier home ec. in high schools. We need to catch kids when they’re young. Many elementary schools now have gardens which are a great way to teach children about growing, harvesting, and preparing food. They’re also great places for teaching children about math and other core subjects. I think that food literacy should be one of these school subjects. Children should receive more education about food and nutrition than the occasional food guide or guest dietitian presentation in health class.

 

If we want children to develop healthy habits for life then we need to show them what healthy living is. It’s not enough to ban cookies in the cafeterias. Our goal should be that no student should finish their school without knowing that carrots have green tops, they don’t come in cans, how to grow vegetables with or without a yard, how to prepare basic nutritious meals, how to slice and dice. We have to eat every day and we shouldn’t be allowing any more children to grow-up without the skills to feed themselves.


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Follow Friday: Beyond Milk and Cookies @beyond_milk

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I’m not quite sure how I got on the mailing list for this organization but I’ve gotten a couple of emails from Beyond Milk and Cookies this month and they seem like an initiative worth supporting.

Their mission is “to inspire lifelong lessons of healthy eating and nutrition”. They’re a non-profit organization, based in the US, providing basic cooking classes for students from kindergarten through high school. Cooking is probably the most important skill in fighting obesity and associated lifestyle diseases and it’s something that can be imparted in young children and used for their entire lives.

They’ve got an indigogo campaign underway which you can support here.


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Food literacy

A recent article posted by the CBC discussed how many Canadians have a poor understanding of calories. The gist was that many people don’t know how to read nutrition labels, don’t know how to estimate the number of calories in restaurant meals, and don’t know how much physical activity is necessary to burn off calories. To counter this, doctors are calling for better nutrition labels as well as labeling on menus. This is all well and fine but I think we need all of these things and more.

We need to improve food literacy. We need to get food education into schools. If kids are educated on label reading and other food skills, such as cooking, gardening, and nutrition, hopefully they’ll be better equipped to make healthy choices. They might even bring this new knowledge home and share it with their parents. Simply changing the information available is not going to be enough to change behaviours. Education and awareness are key and where better to start than with the captive audience of the next generation in schools.