How can we create a better food culture in the UK?

camber beach

On our trip to Rye, we ventured over to Camber Beach a few times, excited about the prospect of warm late summer days of sand and surf. It definitely felt weird to be on the beach in England (I grew up with summer holidays visiting grandparents in Bahamas, so summers are permanently associated with lots of sun, sea and fish in my mind), but we loved every second of it. We might even head over to the beach in Cornwall next summer – how daring of us! ๐Ÿ˜Š

The beach was packed both days we were there with lots of families taking advantage of the hot days before kids head back to school.ย I’ve been pondering how to write the next part of this blog post without judgement, so here goes. It was rather alarming to see how manyย very overweight toddlers, children and teenagers there were and what their parents were giving them to eat – lots of pop, sweets, cakes and crisps.

It got me thinking about food traditions, cooking and how we can teach our children to cook and eat in nourishing, tasty ways.

It’s no secret that food and nutrition education in England is patchy at best. Jamie Oliver’s programmeย Jamie’s School Dinners ten years ago put a spotlight on this and a follow up interview last year, he said that one of the reasons this initiative failed is that “in Britain, eating well and feeding your kid right and being aware about food is all considered very posh and middle class, but the reality is that in most of Europe some of the best food comes from the poorest communities.

This makes me really sad. Food and nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated or defined by class. There are amazing food traditions in European countries that are enjoyed by the rich and the poor. The Greek obsession with fresh ingredients and traditional Greek dishes immediately springs to mind.

In the same article, Jamie Oliverย then goes on to say, “we need to make fresh food more affordable than processed food because the most at-risk people right now wonโ€™t be my kid or yours [speaking of lower income families]”.

And this is the heart of the issue. We have a class-based food culture that is creating an obesity time-bomb.

In England, cooking habits are seemingly not passed on through families like they are in Italy and France and cooking is generally seen as a chore rather than a pleasure. Without this essential skill, familiesย start to over rely on cheap, processed food, ready meals and takeaways to feed themselves. This lack of food knowledge goes on and on through families – children don’t know where their food comes from, can’t identify fruit and vegetables and are overfed and undernourished.

I wish I was exaggerating.

Cooking and eating delicious, nourishing food is such a pleasure, and this pleasure needn’t have any class based connotations.

How can we get people to start taking a long term view on what they eat, realising that the benefits of spending money on fresh food that will make a few meals vs. buying takeaways each night. Enjoying the savings both financially and health wise in growing your own fruit and veg?

I don’t have the answers, but it seems like that part of the solution could be simple food and nutrition education for parents and children – ย using so-called pester power in a positive way.

What do you think?

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