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Teaching About Food Before it's Too Late
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Teaching About Food Before it's Too Late

Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body. 

- Marcus Tullius Cicero

One of the greatest barriers to changing people's diets is ignorance. Unaware of the impact that the food they eat has on their health and the world they live in, they don't have a reason to change.

At the root of this problem lies a lack of focus on food in education. For many pupils, diet and nutrition are only a very small part of their education, covered in passing before moving on to trigonometry or the works of Shakespeare. And the industry behind that food, the way that it works and the harm that it does, that's not there at all.

Education for better eating:

Better informed people make better decisions. It's a simple piece of cause and effect, but one that we easily forget. So if we want to encourage people to move towards a more sustainable and healthy way of eating, one based on vegetable foods rather than meat, in short to move closer to veganism, then we need to ensure that they are well informed.

Being better informed helps to combat the prejudices against veganism as well as to encourage thinking about its benefits. It's harder for someone to fall into the mental trap of 'veganism makes you weak and ill' if they understand nutrition or have heard of vegan athletes like Rich Roll. It's harder for them to treat meat as just a consumer product like any other if they understand the far higher environmental costs involved in producing it.

Where this fits in:

Our understanding of the world is shaped as children by what we're taught in the classroom. Teaching adults to make good decisions starts with informing them as they grow up. That's as true of food as of anything else.

While a bigger overhaul of the way we educate children might be better, food subjects can fit into many areas of the existing approach. Nutrition has a vastly overlooked place in science lessons. Farming production systems should be one of the things that we teach in geography. Existing cookery lessons can be adapted to help children think more intelligently about how they eat. Food plays a huge part in our lives, and we should be willing to drop some other things from the curriculum to help our children understand it better.

Small steps to a big victory:

I'm not saying that the works of the bard and Pythagoras's theorem aren't useful subjects to learn about. But we eat and shop for food every day. Shouldn't those things take more prominence in what children learn?

Changing such huge systems isn't easy. But next time you have an opportunity to make a difference, whether it's voting for a school governor or lobbying the people who shape education policy in government, consider making food lessons part of the agenda. Challenge them to act and see how they respond. We can change the world one step at a time, but the biggest steps come in the classroom.

 

Picture by diversityinteaching via Flickr creative commons

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Leave a Comment

  1. Skip Stein
    Skip Stein
    With the health crisis in America and many Americans and others Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, it is past time to begin educational programs. Not from the idiots in government that give you poisonous GMO foods and pharmaceuticals that might kill you (listen to the advertised side effects!), but from US, ordinary Citizens who promote healthy living by example! http://wholefoods4healthyliving.com/
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    1. Andrew Knighton
      Andrew Knighton
      You're absolutely right that it's down to us to make a difference, both on our own lifestyles and those around us. Thanks for the link - lots of interesting stuff there, and I'm now following you and Nancy on Pinterest.
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      1. Skip Stein
        Skip Stein
        Thanks Andrew. Nancy has thousands of excellent all Vegan recipes on her Pinterest. We decided to offer this arrangement instead of trying to re-invent the wheel and write a book ourselves.
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  2. Terry d'Selkie
    I work every day at convincing "the powers that be" that we need garden based nutrition education to be a part of every child's school day. It takes champions and funding to make it possible. Work with your school board to make garden based nutrition education a priority when they are setting their strategic plans and goals.
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    1. Skip Stein
      Skip Stein
      Agree totally. It is truly unfortunate that most of these bureaucrats typically have the common sense of a standard brick!
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    2. Andrew Knighton
      Andrew Knighton
      Great example of how to act on this, and not one that had occurred to me. Sometimes working with local institutions can make changes happen that are near impossible to push on a larger scale - thanks Terry.
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  3. Norma Plum
    Norma Plum
    I like your article, and complteley agree that kids should be taught nutrition. As a new mom, I've been thinking about my own daughter and will definitely raise her vegan. I think both parents/guardians as well as school administrators should not only try to teach them about healthy foods BUT set an example by eating healthy themselves.
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    1. Andrew Knighton
      Andrew Knighton
      Thanks Norma. I think there's a lot of fundamental life skills that we don't teach children in the classroom, but this is an absolutely essential one. After all, how we can we expect children to have the energy and attention to learn if they aren't eating properly? Your point about setting an example is another really good one. After all, children learn to be adults by watching and imitating adults.
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