We are what we eat

Healthy eating habits need to change nationally and primary school is the perfect place to start, says Bina Sitaram

Back in 2007, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) launched Core Food Competences for children aged five to 16 years.

The approach, in conjunction with exercise and healthy lifestyle concerns, was developed in consultation with the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF). 

The move was overdue. The tremendous increase in the populations’ weight since the 1950s, coupled with debates on high levels of sugar, concerns over obesity and diabetes, and a number of other food debates, meant doing nothing was not an option.

But perhaps – with the benefit of hindsight – the timing wasn’t so good.

The so-called credit crunch and then a deep recession put tremendous pressures on budgets and resources, not just at schools but also in homes up and down the country. It’s questionable that we’ve made the progress we might have done had we not had deplorable economic conditions and cantankerous politics.

The core competences set out a progressive framework of skills and knowledge. It included the essential building blocks around the themes of diet and health, consumer awareness, cooking and food safety for children and young people.

They’ve been widely used and I fully support that, but while they provided consistency and a focal point for teachers, and an audit tool for mapping out lessons, they do little to fully fire up children’s imagination and engagement.

The benchmark is that the competencies and learning is progressive and cumulative from one age phase to the next and can be met at home, school or through other activities. Essentially they aim to help children and young people develop the skills and knowledge to make and implement healthy food choices.

Children must start young in understanding the need to make wise and informed choices about what they eat, how it nourishes their bodies and what the long term effects and benefits might be.

Bina says learning to make informed food choices should be fun

Importantly, they must have fun whilst doing so. That was the drive behind Earth Buds and creating a six-week program for KS1 and KS2 children, one that ensures classroom teaching and practical, hands-on projects are full of stimulating, enriching and inspiring learning.

Children need to be able to make informed choices when it comes to what they eat, identify what food products in the supermarket / shops are healthy and which are not, cook and make healthy nutritious meals with skills learned for life and understand more about the impact their eating habits have on the planet. 

For this to work, teachers must be able to deliver great ‘hands-on’ teaching. They must be sure that their class benefits in a number of ways: Literacy – labelling, reading instructions, writing recipes; Numeracy – measuring ingredients, counting seeds to sow, concept of money when selling to the shops; Science – understanding how plants grow, cooking – change of state, reactions; and, Arts – designing posters and labelling.

Pupils have fun with food whilst learning about making healthy choices

It’s also about personal and social development – learning about the impact food has on their lives and society, team building, and confidence.

This is all possible. I believe in empowering children to be the best they can be, both physically and mentally. It’s crucial for a healthy life.

These are lifelong skills, and the fact that the program covers and touches upon many core subjects is an added bonus.

Bina Sitaram is founder of Earth Buds


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