jamie teaching kids how to cook

With summer coming to an end, the phrase “back to school” is in all parents’ minds, and this year we’re thinking about more than new uniforms and pencil cases.

As part of the UK government’s new School Food Plan, from this September food education will be back on the school curriculum throughout England, and practical cooking lessons compulsory up to the age of 14.

The School Food Plan not only tackles schools directly but also looks to the wider community as a way to improve school food, teach our children to love good, real food, and improve the health of the nation. This is a huge breakthrough in our campaign.

Worldwide there has been a startling increase in rates of obesity in the past few decades. To put that in perspective, there are now more people overweight than underweight, and there is no single country that has seen a decline in obesity in the last 30 years.

What’s more, this is the third generation that won’t know how to cook. Combine that lack of food education with the availability of cheap, processed foods and it’s no wonder that we’re in this situation.

Huge medical advances have led to great victories over infectious diseases, but now we’re seeing these advancements being undone by “lifestyle” diseases, many of which are linked to the food we eat and our sedentary lives. But they’re preventable. We have to get back to basics when it comes to food and we have to educate ourselves on real food – how it grows, where it comes from, how to cook it and why it is so important for our health.

Thankfully things are beginning to change, and all around the world there are exciting real food revolutions taking place, and these will themselves inspire more and more. We’ve now got a great opportunity to turn things back around.

So, what’s happening? Here’s a selection of just some of the initiatives taking place around the world to help make real food and food education a priority. If you know of great initiatives, projects or policies in action please let us know by getting in touch at foodrevolution@jamieoliver.com.

In the UK, not only does the School Food Plan mandate put cooking back on the curriculum for kids in schools, but the mayor of London has also announced ambitious new projects to tackle childhood obesity through communities in London. Two London boroughs – Lambeth and Croydon – have been chosen to take part in a five-year pilot that aims to tackle child obesity and related issues. The programme will bring together a coalition of local agencies to tackle obesity in a way not seen before in the UK. From September 2014 there will be a number of projects launched in these two boroughs that aim to increase knowledge of real food and foster a love of good food. Find out more about these initiatives here.

Across the Atlantic, the state of Mississippi has long struggled with high obesity rates, but in 2007 the Mississippi Healthy Students Act was passed, requiring that schools state-wide provide a minimum of 45 minutes of health education, including nutrition and physical activity, per week. A study conducted in 2011 found a decrease in the prevalence of overweight and obesity for elementary age and adolescent children, a reversal after decades of steady increases. Read more about the Healthy Students Act here.

Earlier in July of this year, the University of California in the USA launched the Global Food Initiative – an initiative that aims to bring together the university’s research, outreach and campus operations to find solutions throughout the world for food security, health and sustainability. Examples of their projects include expanding experiential learning and demonstration gardens, leveraging food purchasing power to encourage sustainable farming practices, and organising food pantries so that food reaches hungry mouths instead of going to waste. Read more about the Global Food Initiative launched here.

In 2013, Peru passed the Promoting Health Food for Children Act, a law that aims to curb the consumption of unhealthy food by kids and adolescents through banning the sales of junk food at school, eliminating trans fats and tackling the advertising of unhealthy food and drinks to kids.

Community-based projects have been launched across Japan to tackle diet-related diseases, including summer cooking schools for kids. Following these classes, both children and parents have reported changing their cooking and eating habits. Find out more about other “eating healthy and staying active” community projects in Japan here.

Not only are there many more of these types of initiatives all over the world, but there are also great organisations and individuals adding more fuel to the good food fight! From Alice Waters and the Edible Schoolyard Project, Food Tank: The Food Think Tank and NCD Free, to Michael Pollan and Chef Ann Cooper.

About the author

Jamie Oliver Food Foundation

The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation is on a mission to shape the health and wellbeing of current and future generations and contribute to a healthier world, by providing better access to Food education. We do this through our food education programmes in schools, communities and with disengaged young people, all of which give people the knowledge to understand where food comes from, how to cook it, and how it affects their lives.

Jamie Oliver Food Foundation