How much do our children know about food?

Ok I’m sure some of my regular readers are wondering, why is he talking about food again? Well it just never ceases to be amazing what these charities can find out.

Today, we have news that almost a third of UK primary pupils think cheese is made from plants and a quarter think fish fingers come from chicken or pigs, suggests a survey by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF)

Some other findings

Nearly one in 10 secondary pupils thinks tomatoes grow under ground

The survey also revealed confusion about the source of staples such as pasta and bread among younger pupils, with about a third of five-to-eight-year-olds believing that they are made from meat.

Some 19% of this age group did not realise that potatoes grew under ground, with 10% thinking they grew on bushes or trees.

The survey, produced to coincide with the BNF’s healthy-eating week, also revealed that more than three quarters (77%) of primary school children and nearly nine in 10 (88%) secondary pupils knew that people should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

However most fail to do this themselves – with 67% of primary pupils and 81% of secondary students saying they eat four or fewer portions a day.

Two in five secondary pupils said they didn’t think frozen or canned fruit and vegetables counted towards their five-a-day.

The researchers also reported that an alarming number of children do not eat breakfast each morning. The numbers skipping breakfast also increase with age. Asked whether they had eaten breakfast that morning, some 8% of primary children said they had not. This increased to nearly a quarter (24%) of 11-to-14-year-olds and almost a third (32%) of 14-to-16-year-olds.

The survey found that only 17% of UK children ate fish twice a week, the recommended amount.

So what can we do about it?

Well, in my years, I have seen a distinct lack of knowledge across the board of where food comes from. I learnt a lot of this when I used to own an allotment, where I used to grow all sorts of fruit and vegetables from potatoes to beans and tomatoes and so on. So if I can do that, why can’t we bring that into schools? I’ve grown up and worked in quite a number of both primary and secondary schools across the South West of England and have only seen a couple of schools doing something like this.

Children in the study have been found to want to cook more, with 85% across all age groups saying they liked cooking – but some 9% of primary children and 11% of secondary pupils never cook at home. This is quite a sad state of affairs when you consider that these children are going to grow into adults and when they leave school, they won’t have the basic knowledge of how to live healthily.

Roy Ballam, education programme manager at BNF called for a national framework and guidance for food and nutrition education across the UK, “especially at a time when levels of childhood obesity are soaring”.

Some 3,000 UK schools have signed up for the BNF’s Healthy Eating Week programme which Mr Ballam said aims: “to start the process of re-engaging children with the origins of food, nutrition and cooking, so that they grow up with a fuller understanding of how food reaches them and what a healthy diet and lifestyle consists of.”

A spokesman for England’s Department for Education said: “We want to encourage children to develop a love of food, cooking and healthy eating that will stay with them as they grow up.” They added that its curriculum reforms would make food and nutrition compulsory for eight-to-14-year-olds, while the new design and technology curriculum would allow teachers to explain food production.

This is something that I feel really needs addressing as a matter of urgent concern. If we can tackle this early who knows what we can achieve. Obesity may drop, or at least slow down just to name one.

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