Food literacy essential in fighting childhood obesity

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Professor Pendergast said as one in four Australia children were outside the healthy weight range, food preparation skills and food literacy should be an essential part of the core curriculum.

“But it’s more than just learning how to cook,” she said.

“It’s about food literacy, which means teaching children what foods to eat and why, how to understand food labelling information and how and why we need to prepare and cook food safely.”

Professor Pendergast said if the current trend in childhood obesity continued, the current generation of children could experience shorter life spans than their parents.

“Children are spending more of their leisure time in sedentary pursuits, watching television, playing computer games, and using the internet.

“Concerns about personal safety means they are being driven to events instead of walking or cycling.

“The overall effect of this lack of physical activity means when energy consumed is greater than energy expended, body fat accumulates.”

Professor Pendergast commended recent UK government reforms to deliver food skills and knowledge teaching in schools for children and young people aged seven to 16.

“Students are exposed to food preparation skills so along with gaining a theoretical understanding of appropriate nutrition, they also acquire the skills to enact this knowledge,” she said.

“This strategy acknowledges that personal choice and food-related behaviours are complex.

“Mandating the learning of food-related competencies in the school curriculum also complements informal learning such as in the home.

“There is a message that informal learning alone does not achieve the desired nutritional and food skills capabilities necessary to enact healthy food choices.

Professor Pendergast’s comments follow recent Griffith University research on consumer choices in fast-food outlets which showed little interest in the healthy options on offer.

Professor Donna Pendergast is the Head and Dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies. She has recently conducted research in the following areas: middle years education; middle schooling; early years education; school and policy reform and evaluation; Year 7 into secondary; resilience; generational theory; Y and Z generations and pedagogy; teacher efficacy; family and consumer sciences research; home economics philosophy; cyberbullying; mentoring; evaluation of professional development processes; food literacy; gifted and talented students.