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The answer to the UK’s obesity crisis isn’t banning all foods under the sun – it’s educating children about food
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The answer to the UK’s obesity crisis isn’t banning all foods under the sun – it’s educating children about food

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It’s no secret that Britain is in the middle of an obesity crisis, with 63 percent of adults being classed as ‘overweight’ and 29 percent of children being classed as overweight or obese. 30,000 people die each year from obesity related health problems in the UK, and it costs the NHS around £6 billion each year. In fact, the annual spend on obesity and diabetes is greater than the amount spent on the police, the fire service and the judicial system combined.

And yet we live in a time when we’ve never known more about nutrition, and never had access to more fruit and vegetables from all around the world, so why are we struggling under the weight of obesity? And what’s the answer to solving it?

The annual spend on obesity and diabetes is greater than the amount spent on the police, the fire service and the judicial system combined.

Jamie Oliver’s approach appears to be banning anything associated with an unhealthy lifestyle, for instance calling for bans on Tony the Tiger, 2 for 1 pizza deals, and TV adverts for fast food before the 9pm watershed. The government has further implemented a sugar tax on producers and importers of sugary drinks. However, these approaches have been heavily criticised as they’ll likely hit those on lower incomes the hardest.

However, the above approaches seem very negative with little evidence of whether they’ll work, and seem to merely be suggestions for banning things that those in power don’t like.

We need to make a positive impact in society. It therefore seems obvious to me that there’s a lack of food and nutrition education in schools. During my time at high school, I was only provided with around 25 hours of compulsory food education, and was given the option of an extra 10 hours of cookery lessons before I went off to university. 

Whilst I loved every minute of food tech, had it not been for the fact I myself was interested in food and nutrition and did my own research and cooking at home, I’d have left education armed with nothing but a fruit salad ‘recipe’ and a non-sensical infograph about pulses and cereals, which still connotes images of checking people’s wrists and necks and a box of cornflakes.

We need to make a positive impact in society

We need to make sure that children and teenagers leaving school understand the food that they’re eating. When a fifth of children don’t know that bacon comes from pigs, and a third of children think that cheese is made from plants, there are too many people in our society who have no respect or knowledge about the food that they’re eating. 

Furthermore, eating disorders are evermore prevalent in our societies, especially amongst teenagers in schools, with a 34 percent increase in eating disorders in the last decade. Whilst you could blame the likes of social media, or better awareness of eating disorders, the negative reporting and handling of issues surrounding obesity and attitudes to food can’t be helping the situation. 

We need to implement compulsory food education in schools, be it learning about where food comes from, easy-to-understand information about nutrition, and an appreciation for the ingredients we use and eat. Only then can we begin to have a positive and healthy attitude towards food.

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