“A hungry or emotional child cannot develop physically, mentally or emotionally. Healthy eating habits provide the optimum mental and physical health for children and, once established, last a lifetime.”
– Dr Yibo Wood, USA Government Department of Agriculture Nutritionist.
Childhood obesity is at an all-time high. New figures show that one in ten primary school starters are already obese at the young age of four or five, and twenty percent are obese by the time they leave primary school.
Experts warn of a disastrous end and have called for more PE lessons in the hope that more exercise is the resolution. Although it is proven that a stringent and effective physical education programme can have a positive effect on the health and wellbeing of pupils, perhaps the experts are ignoring a key factor in childhood obesity by proposing this as the most viable, if not only, plan of action – lack of knowledge.
Some may assume it is widely known that diet goes hand in hand with exercise for people attempting to lose weight; however, the evidence suggests that a lot of people, especially children, are unaware of the importance of nutrition, not only in battling obesity but in healthy physical and mental development. The way that children interact with food in their early years can build relationships with food that will stay with them for life.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom! Today, Thursday 5 March, is International School Meals Day. The annual event, managed by Children in Scotland and backed by organisations from all across the UK and USA, aims to raise awareness of the importance of the nutritional qualities of school meal programmes worldwide. All across the globe, children and adults in education will be celebrating food and healthy living in the education environment.
A few ways schools, organisations, governing bodies, catering companies and anyone with an interest can get involved include:
- Having an International Menu Day.
- Hosting food tasting sessions.
- Hosting internationally themed cooking activities.
- Dedicating lessons to healthy eating topics.
- Holding fund-raising activities for charities that support school feeding programmes in developing countries.
The scheme wants to foster healthy eating habits in schools, emphasise the connection between this and better learning and raise awareness of the good work of school feeding programmes and of the hunger and poverty issues they try to help as well as share the success stories of school meal programmes around the globe.
The scheme suggests that celebrating culture through food is an integral way of promoting healthy eating and learning,
“Food, like language, is an integral part of culture and many countries history and society rests on their food traditions. Families and communities often help children to make valuable connections between a culture and its food.”
Also, collaboration and sharing practice with other schools, not only for this annual event but throughout the rest of the year could prove helpful, if not invaluable, in tackling obesity and promoting optimum, healthy child development.
Ensuring the next generation of children possess all the knowledge needed to fully understand healthy eating and how they can be responsible for their future health, and the health of their own children, is integral in preparing them for later life. Cooking and eating is something that we do every day and it is too easy to become complacent and favour something quick and easy over something healthier and perhaps more challenging in the kitchen. I’m sure I speak for a lot of people when I say I wish I was taught more at a younger age about food, so that I might look forward to preparing myself an exciting meal, rather than it being a chore.
If we can make sure that children form positive life-long relationships with food, rather than ones detrimental to their health, then perhaps there is hope for a healthier and more flavoursome future for all.
So, why not get involved in International School Meals Day this year with a day full of making healthy food fun?
You can share your International School Meals Day ideas or events in the comments below and join the global #BigSchoolLunch twitter campaign by sharing your favourite dish or traditional school meals.
Click here for more information on The School Food Plan on TheSchoolBus.