Published on September 18th, 2022
The British Nutrition Foundation, supported by the All Saints Education Trust, has been working on developing education around food and nutrition that is relevant to young people across the UK and meets the needs of our culturally diverse society.
The British Nutrition Foundation organised a consensus-building event focused on exploring what a future, modern food education that is relevant to young people and society, might look like and contain. With the Government’s response to the National Food Strategy due imminently and the publication of the Levelling Up the UK White Paper earlier this year, there has been elevated debate around food and nutrition education, with recommendations that aim to raise the status of food education in schools, and so this consensus building event could not have been more relevant.
Full of thought-provoking presentations delivered by experts in the field of food and nutrition education, the event, attended by over 200 global registrants, provided insights into different aspects of teaching and learning. Including, looking back at 50 years of food education and setting the scene as to why change might be needed, to the health status and nutrition knowledge of teenagers, and consideration of diversity and experiences for pupils in the 21st century.
The event also launched new survey findings from pupils, aged 13-18 years, and teachers throughout the UK. It revealed that:
Pupils rated their overall experience in food, and their teaching, as mostly ‘good’ or ‘very good’ and when asked to sum-up their learning experiences pupils described it as enjoyable, fun and interesting. However, some described it as stressful, crowded and loud.
Teachers reflected the pupils’ current food learning experience as fun and enjoyable, but also stressful. Future expectations of the experience included being calm and valued.
The majority of pupils enjoyed practical activities/lessons, and identified the importance of these, as well as suggesting that they wanted more and longer lessons to enable them to make a wider variety of dishes. Teachers and pupils agreed that recipes should be healthy and be within the context of family/everyday, tasty (pupils) and low cost (teachers). The importance of culture and diversity was important for both teachers and pupils. In the future, healthy and sustainable diets should feature more, as well as knowing how to ‘feed myself well’.
Many teachers did not have or know if their schools had a Whole School Food policy, and there was little liaison with other subjects.
During the consensus building event, the interactive polls and discussions also revealed some important results, such as a majority view that all pupils should study food and nutrition until at least the age of 16, that food and nutrition teachers should be involved in curriculum co-ordination for food subject content and Whole School Food approaches across the school, and a recognition that lack of teaching time can hinder progress and curriculum opportunities.
Commenting on the event and its key findings, Elaine Hindal, Chief Executive Officer, British Nutrition Foundation said, “Through this event and survey, we at the British Nutrition Foundation were looking to understand how children and young people can be provided with the means and resources to access a food education that is modern, diverse and inclusive. One that it is fit for the future and meets the needs of pupils, their families and society. The strong recommendations that have come out of our consensus building event will help drive us towards a modern food education that serves children and young people across the UK. It was really encouraging to see that these recommendations align with the Levelling up the UK White Paper published by the Government in February 2022 which sets out the next steps in the Government’s programme to reduce inequalities across the UK.”
As a result of the consensus event, including the inter-linking presentations, attendee feedback and discussions, the following recommendations for the future of food education have been made:
Food and nutrition education for all: Food and nutrition education should be made universally available for all children and young people from at least 5 to 16 years.
Progress for life: Ensure that there are routes of learning post-16, which include the reintroduction of A-level food and nutrition in England and Wales.
Teacher recruitment and training: Ensure that there are enough specialist teachers at secondary school level to provide high-quality, rigorous teaching.
Empower primary school teachers: At primary level, ensure that food and nutrition teaching is part of initial teacher training courses and that ongoing CPD training is available, ensuring high quality experiences by all pupils.
Unlock the subject: Tackle the life-long persistent problems that have held-back the subject, namely ingredient provision, resource allocation, curriculum time (frequency/length) and technician support.
Respect, importance and impact: Address the value and respect for the subject, starting from the top down, i.e. policy makers, school governors and senior leadership teams. Show the importance and impact of food and nutrition education, including careers in ‘food’, to parents/carers, which can include getting families involved in learning (in and out of the classroom). Inclusive, diverse and modern: Ensure that teaching reflects ‘the now’ (and continues to evolve with change), taking into account cultural aspects, family life, socio-economics, health and sustainability. Food and nutrition education is for all pupils, diverse and inclusive. Characteristics of good education: State what a modern food and nutrition education looks like, enabling teacher trainers, schools and CPD providers to have a consistent approach for the subject.
Expand learning experience, don’t limit: Schemes of Work/Learning should include dishes that pupils want to make, and that reflect their families/lifestyles, in the context of healthy and sustainable diets. Pupils should be given opportunities to use ingredients that they are initially familiar with, but then extended over time to broaden their learning experiences, handling, cooking and tasting a variety of ingredients.
It’s about context: Healthy and sustainable diets needs to be the basis for food and nutrition education going forward, with learning about food from around the world, reflecting personal cultures and values, demonstrating diversity and inclusivity.
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