In the past few decades, there has been a startling increase in obesity rates; there are now more people overweight than underweight worldwide, 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 have begun to change. In 2014, the UK government introduced a new School Food Plan, which put food education back on the school curriculum. The School Food Plan aimed to improve school food, teach our children to love good, real food, and improve the health of the nation.
But what else has been happening? Here’s a selection of just some of the initiatives that have been taking place around the world to help make real food and food education a priority.
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.
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.
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.
Keep fighting the good fight!