Deborah Homshaw sets the scene: “It seems that we’re never far away from a childhood obesity headline, and sadly, not one that says the problem is under control.
“Add this to the raft of other food-related headlines coming our way, and it seems we’re no nearer to tackling all the eating ‘issues’ that, as a society, we’ve unwittingly created. I take my hat off to anyone standing up and committing to making a difference to our nation’s health, but I fear, until the teaching of nutrition to all children of all ages is taken seriously, it will continue to be an uphill struggle.
“Some 30 years ago, at university, I wrote a dissertation on the link between education and nutrition and how a lack in one caused a deficit in the other. Nutrition should be part of the basic curriculum for all children, wherever they go to school, and it baffles me that this still isn’t happening. School is the perfect place to spark interest and start a child’s journey of understanding the benefits of eating well that will positively impact their lifetime and those that follow.
“Caterers work hard to educate children in the dining room and inspire a life-long love of good food through varied, nutritious menus, and fun and relevant interaction. But, we’re only one piece of the puzzle. Nutrition needs to be on the curriculum from tots to teenagers and it needs to penetrate every part of school life.”
Amanda Ursell agrees: “It’s hard to over-emphasise the importance of having regular, evidence-based nutrition and healthy eating messaging within a child’s normal school curriculum.
“Waiting until senior school to formally teach nutrition within science subjects is way too late. Teaching children about ‘good nutrition’ can start at nursery and thread, age appropriately, all the way through lessons and school life right up until they leave at 16 or 18 and head into independent life at work or in further studies.
The more integrated this is – such as tying in with a school garden, healthy preparation and cooking methods in class time and after-school cooking clubs – the better.
I fear, until the teaching of nutrition to all children of all ages is taken seriously, it will continue to be an uphill struggle
“Arming pupils with information and complementing this with hands-on learning about food is one of our best hopes for future-proofing the next generation against so many of the self-inflicted diseases that currently plague large swathes of the population. These include everything from eating disorders, nutritional deficiencies, type 2 diabetes, fallen foot arches and joint problems, heart disease and stroke.
“It can help them to make the right choices for their bodies now and in the future. And, it can also arm them with the scientific facts about nutrition and, in turn, help them to spot and ignore or at least put into perspective, the plethora of nonsensical advice given by self-appointed ‘experts’, which abound not only in social media, but also in so many areas of the general media.
“School is where we can foster an interest, love and understanding of how great food plays a role in optimising everything from growth to brain power, to fuelling sports and boosting energy levels and even helping relaxation, from an early age. This will equip children with vital tools that they need to control not only their only health destiny, but that of others they meet and interact with in their lives.”
Homshaw concludes: “Through our Good Food Works engagement, we know that children are interested in the food they eat and make good choices when armed with information. Now imagine the positive impact of extending this learning beyond lunchtime, onto the curriculum of every school, in every year group.”