Educating kids in food is the arguably the key to tackling child obesity. Whilst parents do have an important role, if children can develop a good understanding of food, they can make their own good choices.
Consider this dooming report from the WHO in 2014:
The number of overweight or obese infants and young children (aged 0 to 5 years) increased from 32 million globally in 1990 to 42 million in 2013. In the WHO African Region alone the number of overweight or obese children increased from 4 to 9 million over the same period.
The vast majority of overweight or obese children live in developing countries, where the rate of increase has been more than 30% higher than that of developed countries.
If current trends continue the number of overweight or obese infants and young children globally will increase to 70 million by 2025.
Without intervention, obese infants and young children will likely continue to be obese during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
Obesity in childhood is associated with a wide range of serious health complications and an increased risk of premature onset of illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.
Exclusive breastfeeding from birth to 6 months of age is an important way to help prevent infants from becoming overweight or obese.
An embarrassingly small amount is done about these and other such damning statistics. It starts with education. At school. And preferably, primary school. Kids need to be exposed to food and taught the basics about what is good, what is bad, where the food they eat comes from, the different types of food, how food affects the whole world, why food is important for our health, and so on.
This presents a challenge: How to we get kids interested in this? An easy and obvious way to introduce them is to incorporate cooking into the primary school curriculum. At the very minimum they need to be exposed to fresh foods — from meat and fish, to seasonal and local fruit and veg. Even continental and unusual foods. They need to be able to touch, taste, smell, and experiment with simple ingredients.
We keep banging on at parents to take responsiblity for their children’s diets, and yes, this is true to a certain extent; but what if we turned the tables and instead focused on increasing the awareness in the kids themselves? What if we could reverse the roles; what if the children started educating their parents? What if 8-year-old Johnny could say no to the double cheeseburger? If children were educated and parents made aware, progress would be a lot faster.
Cook and TV star Jamie Oliver has done fantastic work in recent years to raise awareness in food across the globe. He launched the food revolution project, which last year saw every single country on the globe sign up to. Anybody can sign up. The food revolution is a fantastic project and every year it has a food revolution day. On this day, millions join forces and raise awareness firstly of the project, and then of the core values and how we personally can make change happen. Jamie’s latest campaign is one close to my heart. He is trying to do exactly what I outlined in this article. You can help the food revolution project here.
Obesity is just a minor issue when you think of the other problems we face as a human race — heart disease, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, to name just a few. Adopting a healthier, more serious and respectful approach towards food — towards our own bodies — signifies just how serious we are about ridding the world of these horrible realities.
What are your views on education? How do you think we can educate kids about food? How else can we effectively tackle obesity/malnutrition?